I learned about cartoonist Mark Crilley through his series of YouTube instructional drawing videos (he's posted over 100!), where he demonstrates his enviable skills at drawing people. I'm not normally a fan of manga-style art but Crilley's blend of Western and Japanese style illustration hits the spot.
A couple of days ago I got a copy of his latest book, Brody's Ghost, which came out this summer from Dark Horse. It's the first in a six-part series of 96-page graphic novels. The book is in black and white, but Crilley's fine sense of grayscale more than makes up for the lack of color.
The story is set in a Bladerunner-esque world, and (like Crilley's art style) it has a blend of Western and Asian architectural styles and cultures. Brody, the lead character, is a disheveled, depressed curbside busker who plays his guitar only when his money jar runs so low that his stomach aches from hunger.
One day, while sitting on the sidewalk, Brody encounters Talia, the ghost of a teenage girl who died of cancer five years ago. She senses that Brody possesses a hidden talent, and she convinces him to help her solve a grisly murder so she can get on with the businesses of leaving the Earthly plane (sort of like Clarence the angel from It's A Wonderful Life doing a good deed to earn his his wings).
Crilley excels in conveying emotions through facial expressions, and the relationship between Brody and the Talia carries the story right along.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.