Ghost Tree #3
What are the consequences of living your life in the past rather than in the present?
Brandt has inherited a family trait – the ability to see and speak with ghosts. But does spending so much time with the dead change the living? Find out in Ghost Tree #3!
Writer: Bobby Curnow
Artist: Simon Game
Colorist: Ian Herring and Becka Kinzie
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: June 26, 2019
Previously in Ghost Tree: When Brandt visits his grandmother’s home in Japan, ten years after his grandfather’s death, he finds he is able to speak with ghosts. These ghosts are benign, and he finds that he enjoys talking with them and trying to help them work through their issues. Even as he does so, his grandfather’s ghost warns him about getting too involved. Brandt also learns that there is a demon in the area. Brandt has issues of his own, and after trying to call his ex-wife, and not being able to do more than leave a message, he hears the voice of another ghost calling him. It is an old girlfriend of his who died. She doesn’t know why she is lingering here, but she does know that something is not quite right.
A DEEPLY THOUGHTFUL TAKE ON LIVING IN THE PAST
Ghost Tree #3 opens with Brandt remembering a night long ago, when he and Arami were teenagers, a romantic night, if awkward. In the present day, Brandt talks with Arami’s ghost, spending time with her, getting to know her all over again. He is still attracted to her. And then she asks him about his marriage, and we find out what we’ve been suspecting. Things are not well between Brandt and his wife. They’ve gradually grown apart to the point where they don’t know where they are any more.
They’re interrupted. The Zero – the ghost charged with keeping demons away – appears hurt and the local ghosts crowd around him. Arami asks Brandt to draw the other ghosts away, and she goes to help the Zero, who wants her to help him stand and get closer to the tree. He’s been hurt, and she gets the feeling that he won’t be around much longer. They have a close bond.
But this is also a story about family, and Obaa-Chan, the grandmother, is still living on her own, by herself, in the house by the woods. Brandt’s cousin Mariko talks to her, telling her of her worries now that Ojii (the grandfather) is no longer around to look after her. That’s when it comes out that he didn’t spend a lot of time around the house, and Obaa has felt rather alone for a long time. In a poignant touch, as she is talking, we see his ghost on the other side of the window, apparently listening to her. And immediately we are struck with the parallel between him and Brandt. And we also see that Mariko’s little boy can see Ojii’s ghost. That sent a shiver of foreboding down my spine.
Ojii finds Brandt and Arami and asks to speak to Brandt alone. He warns him that he is spending too much time with ghosts, with Arami. In death he realizes that his life among the ghosts was perhaps not the best decision. And as is so often the case, Brandt is living in the present and right now only knows that that he enjoys this life and he feels good that he can perhaps help the ghosts. And then we get to the heart of the matter. He feels wanted here, and the unspoken words are that he doesn’t feel wanted in his own life.
The demon returns, and the Zero rushes in to protect them, human and ghosts, and is struck down. He is struck down by the demon, who leaves. Arami goes to her friend, who collapses and fades, leaving only his mask, which she picks up.
SUBTLETY AND MAGIC
There are so many very pretty and striking images in Ghost Tree #3, and some that are outright humorous, which is like a breath of calm in a book that has a lot of emotional tension at its core. The story is so much about what is internal, about that things that people don’t say to each other, or that they don’t explain. When Brandt lets down his guard with Arami, we see how relaxed he is, which all at once accentuates how tense he’s been all along. There is a charming scene where he asks Arami about any ghost powers she has, and she demonstrates her ability to swim through the earth as though it is water. And then she stays half in the earth as she listens to him further.
But the scene that I think really stands out to me is when the grandmother is talking and the little boy sees his grandfather’s ghost. There is so much emotional subplot. Obaa looks stoic and tired, if anything. Ojii, perhaps hearing this for the first time, looks genuinely sad. The little boy looks fascinated to see his great-grandfather and reaches out to him. And at that, Ojii reacts with a mix of delight that this little boy who never knew him can actually see him, and horror as he realizes this is yet another family member drawn into the world of ghosts.
BOTTOM LINE: DEEPLY EMOTIONAL
Ghost Tree #3 is not the typical story we tend to see. It is deep and raw. While the story of ghosts and demons feels folkloric, the emotions and interactions are fully human and hit to the core. These are feelings we’ve probably all felt at some time, and I think there are a lot of moments that people will recognize from their own lives.