Pullbox Reviews Geiger: Ground Zero- The first swing at a new creator-owned comic world, from Ghost Machine

Set twenty-five years in the future after the mysterious UNKNOWN WAR, husband and father Tariq Geiger lost his humanity in the aftermath of the nuclear war that took his family from him. Now, capable of absorbing radiation but struggling to contain it, Geiger is known as THE GLOWING MAN. He’s the last person you want to cross paths with… or if you have no one else to turn to for help, maybe he’s the first.

In April of 2021, Image Comics released the first issue of Geiger, a limited series co-created by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank (you can snag the collected edition here). I haven’t read that one… yet… but I have read the two-part story, Ground Zero, which leads into the launch of new publisher Ghost Machine. Johns and Frank have taken a snapshot of a story to craft a prelude for bigger things to come, something that could have backfired given the heavy exposition laid out to set the stage. In my case, the ploy fed just enough info to stir the pot and leave me wanting more.

Geoff Johns (writer) & Gary Frank (illustrator) could have put out a sweet piece of post-apocalyptic horror about a living nuclear bomb wandering the wasteland, but Johns dug deeper into the people populating it. Our title character is Tariq Geiger, loving husband to his wife Tracy & doting father to children Marcus & Violet. When the bombs dropped, Tariq was caught outside of the bomb shelter he’d built while his family made it safely inside. Now as “the Glowing Man”, Tariq is caught in a cycle of absorbing and discharging the radioactivity of a ruined world. The story itself is told through the eyes of another man, Dr. Andrei Molotov, who had defected to the United States with his wife Lena. Like Tariq, Andrei is dedicated to reuniting with Lena, even to the point of allying with a walking nuclear core.

As well-written as Ground Zero is, it’s elevated by the fantastic artwork behind it. Frank’s ability to show personality and emotion in his characters is fantastic, particularly with Tariq Geiger. In the beginning, he’s a calm and loving man, stuck carrying the weight of bone cancer treatments while doing the best he can for his family. As the Glowing Man, Tariq is driven by rage & instinct and the visual shift is more than just making him glowy and scary. Likewise, the environments we visit range from bright suburban flashbacks to dismal radioactive hellscape, a tactic used to great effect with the narrative moving back & forth in the timeline.

As the saying goes, “it takes a village” so I’d be committing a travesty of justice if I didn’t say anything about the rest of the creative team. Brad Anderson’s work with color brings out all the details of the illustrations, building on the tone established by Frank and giving it depth. I love the contrast between the drab, dusty environment, and the brilliant, ghostly green glow of Tariq in full on nuke mode. Finally, letterer Rob Leigh gets a virtual high-five for the work he did. I mentioned that there’s quite a bit of talky-talk in these issues, as the story is narrated by Dr. Molotov. Leigh keeps it all well-organized and easy to follow, never getting in the way of the art.

I was looking forward to Ghost Machine’s debut issues before, but now that I’ve gotten this peek into this new creator-owned world I’m fully invested. As a prelude, Geiger: Ground Zero serves up a fantastic appetizer with promises of great things to come. The Ghost Machine crew is scheduled to be setting up at MegaCon in Orlando, Florida this February, and I have every intention of getting hold of some floppies and gathering some signatures.

Final Score: 12/13

It occurred to me that this will be our final review of 2023, so I’d very much like to offer up the best of New Year wishes for my tens of readers (hi, Mom…). If some of you happen to find yourselves at MegaCon Orlando, keep an eye out for the old guy in the Dungeons & Dragons ampersand baseball cap. If you come up and say “hi”, he might have some spiffy Pullbox stickers if that kind of thing interests you.

Happily, gleefully, nerdfully yours…

Paul

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