"The Ghost Fleet" #1 trades in the first-issue-as-pilot approach for a surprising first-issue-as-extended-trailer tactic -- and I'm using that description as a compliment. Donny Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson create an energized, suspenseful first issue that doesn't really fill the reader in on much, but the atmosphere, approach and basic premise had me eager for the next issue. With explosions, betrayal and bloody showdowns, it's an awesome, action-packed ride.
Donny Cates's script uses a compelling structure that keeps the reader curious. His protagonists, Ward and Trace, are combat-trained truckers who work for a covert organization called the Ghost Fleet. He opens with the 1812 backstory of the Ghost Fleet before teasing, "This is not how our story begins..." When he circles back to that idea at the end, the payoff is pitch-perfect. Meanwhile, in the linear highway chase/battle that makes up most of the issue, he keeps the posturing dialogue to a minimum. Ward and Trace sound believably tough, in part because Cates doesn't show them trying to. Instead, they talk logistics and practicalities, as if they're actually practiced at evading rocket launchers and smashing through SUVs. Trace's one moment of bravado -- "Mine's bigger" -- gets an even bigger grin from the reader for being a rarity.
Daniel Warren Johnson and Lauren Affe's art thrums with vitality and force. The objects in motion look like they're in motion, and the trucks look more formidable and epic than many world-destroying supervillains. Johnson's great eye for movement and Affe's realistic colors go a long way toward accomplishing the high-octane feel of the book. In particular, Trace and Ward's bloody, climactic crash into their assailants is bursting with life. The onomatopoeia effects are creatively integrated, with the words "crunch" and "choom" splayed across the truck's grille and the background. "The Ghost Fleet" really embraces the comic book as action flick, with all the crazy gore and screeching metal that entails.
Much as I enjoyed this issue, I have to admit that it didn't tell me very much. I don't want to spoil anything, but it mostly just tore down its purported premise for a new one. The result tells me a lot about the skill of the creative team, but it doesn't tell me what's on the way. As a reader, I was hooked by the story in issue #1, but I don't get any assurance that issue #2 will be similar in some way.
That's not going to stop me from reading it, though. "The Ghost Fleet" #1 is a rousing success in making you want to read issue #2. I'm curious to see how it proceeds from here. If the creative team keeps things as heart-pumping as they are in issue #1, this series will sell a whole lot of copies.