The first entry in Ghost Academy was a character experiment. Readers spent the majority of their time getting a feel for the (largely boring) characters – Gabriel Tosh, Nova Terra, Kath Toom, Lio Travski and Delta Emblock – at the expense of a grandiose adventure. Volume 2 increased the tale’s scope, introducing additional storylines, showing us what’s going on outside school. Volume 3 combines the storylines for an epic finale to a series that has matured to Tullamore Dew Special Reserve quality.
The third installment begins with the final days of Ghost Academy. The training culminates with former adversaries becoming allies when Team Red and Blue are coalesced under Tosh’s command. With little time to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the new team – purple, for those that don’t know the color wheel – is deployed in the field for the first time. The routine training mission on a safe planet of The Baker’s Dozen system is diverted to Shi, of the same system, after Lio detects a faint radio signal. The discovery of zerg hatcheries on the surface seals the decision, forcing Team Purple to conduct their final training mission in a live operation.
Who will die? Do the ghosts pass their final mission? Will the zerg get their hands on that perfectly sculpted posterior? You’ll find the answer to none of those questions after the jump (SPOILER FREE review, remember?)!
Writer David Gerrold absconds with Ghost Academy after this installment. I derided the initial work put in by DeCandido, but the mini-series has flourished under Gerrold’s pen. Under his watch the story has been connected to the rest of the StarCraft universe. The tale stopped being a single subject in the science fiction universe and became a part of the great scheme of the war-stricken universe. During Team Purple’s last “training” exercise readers encounter the horrors of war. Artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa flexes his artistic muscle on the worst enemy for a ghost — spore crawlers and overlords — and splashes the pages with his candid gore. The exercise showcases the combined might of a terran ghost/marine squad, with Gerrold paying close attention to lessons learned.
Even in the heat of battle on the ground, the scope of the story stays large. The reader is shown the full scale of the op, from tactical to strategic implementation. War’s terrible, but it far from a simple affair. It’s a complex machine of advancement, assessment and execution, and the creative team does a superb job of describing all of these events in a concise manner. Meanwhile, life continues elsewhere. Mengsk’s propaganda machine drives forward and at Ghost Academy proper, Colin Phash, a new recruit, makes an impression on Director Bick as Nova did before him.
Gerrold’s ability to have edge-of-your-seat action, while simultaneously exploring the big picture of StarCraft is nothing short of impressive. What started off as a less-than-stellar spin-off series blossomed in to quite a treat. Lore is accessed, addressed, created and forwarded in a mature, dark fashion. The mini-series is concluded in the most apt of fashion, answering many questions laid out in its arc while creating so many more for Lore Hounds to sniff after. The Nova/Gabriel Tosh angle being only one of them. Volume 3 is worth the buy, if only to find out more on that angle, and what sets Tosh apart from his crew.
StarCraft: Ghost Academy Volume 3 is available now. Gabriel Tosh’s story will continue in StarCraft: Ghost: Spectres in August, 2011. Tokyopop and Blizzard have ended their relationship, but there’s still plenty of Expanded Universe to plow through, including all the other tasty (albeit older) manga. I recommend Frontline for the StarCraft junkies.