A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez (writing and art)
A Gift for a Ghost is a comic book of two intertwined stories, one from 1856 and the other from 2016. In 1856, a young woman, Teresa, talks with a skeleton, asking him why he is crying. After a short conversation, they go look at the stars. This scene is typical of the visions that Teresa has throughout the book. In 2016, another young woman, Gloria, gets dressed in her room, which is covered in music posters. A butterfly connects the two stories, flying out of 1856 into 2016, landing in Gloria’s room on the lampshade.
Gloria meets up with her two friends, Cristina and Laura. The three of them want to start a high school punk band — The Black Holes. Only they have one problem: None of them can play any instruments, of which Cristina has plenty in her basement, which is set up as a rehearsal room (decorated with rock posters and littered with horror comics). Gloria is skeptical, particularly about Laura’s obscure lyrics, but they go ahead with their plans. Her lyrics are a key point in the story overall.
Back in 1856, Teresa tells her younger sister Rose about the skeleton, who reveals this secret to her two older sisters. When Teresa’s mother hears about her it, Teresa gets in trouble, but her mother is particularly disturbed by Teresa’s unsettling poetry, which she recites to her mother’s displeasure. Overall, the mother is mostly concerned with Teresa’s social debut, during which Teresa is to play the piano and read a poem. One wonders what poem Teresa will read aloud, given her penchant for writing horror poetry of her own.
The comic works because of the small details — the strange visions that Teresa has and the wide variety of costumes that Laura wears. When we first meet Laura, she’s dressed up like Cinderella. And then when they go skinny-dipping, as a monster/dinosaur. And when we see her next, she is wearing a sheet, dressed as a ghost carrying an electronic keyboard strapped across her. Another detail I like is the small ice cream shop that shows up frequently, and from which the characters order oddly named ice cream. And the art focuses on small details, many of the panels silent views of nature or of rooms or of stairs. It is a meditative comic marked more by quiet than with talk and conversation, though there is, of course, some of that.
I enjoyed this comic book, but at about one hundred and fifteen pages, it is on the short side for trying to tell two full stories punctuated by so many silent panels. Its pacing demands a story that is at least twice as long. For that reason, I cannot give the comic a full five stars. But what we get is splendid and the ending wraps everything up and brings the stories full circle, and therefore, I have no problem assigning four stars to A Gift for a Ghost.