Sometimes monsters need ad campaigns, too.
Shay Melendez is a human working for the Ghoul Agency, an advertising company in a highly competitive market of humans and supernatural beings. From Action Lab, Gene Selassie and Orlando Baez deliver The Dagmar, the first volume in this series of inter-office politics and supernatural corporate scheming.
The Dagmar unfolds in a somewhat episodic story that gradually builds into a larger narrative. With a quirky cast of characters who often struggle to mesh into a functional corporate entity, the story opens with Shay jumping into the fray to salvage a faltering corporate contract—bringing herself to the attention of the board of directors in the process. What follows is an escalating series of events as the Ghoul Agency goes to war against one of their largest competitors over a lucrative new contract. Office espionage, personal ambitions, and the threat of eternal banishment collide as Shay and her golem assistant, Greer, rush to stay ahead of a situation rapidly spinning out of control.
The idea of a paranormal ad agency is a fun one, with lots of potential for comedy and zany hijinks. It’s clear that Selassie intended to create a workplace comedy in these pages. Unfortunately, the end result falls remarkably flat in humor and storytelling. Most of the characters are underdeveloped, existing either in the background or as perpetual punchlines never given the time to shine on their own. Even Shay, who sits at the center of the narrative, is hardly better developed, despite her implied family difficulties and ability to command respect. The narrative, similarly, jolts from place to place with minimal development beyond the superficial: Shay is good at her job. Another company behaves unethically. Shay is the only one who can stop them—but not without the help of her friends. It’s a basic plot delivered in rough strokes and never given the chance to shine in comedy, character, or story.
Baez’s art also fell short for me. Stylized and cartoonish, it fits the unserious tone of the book well enough, maintaining distinct characters and occasional moments of supernatural humor. Unfortunately, the disjointed story doesn’t translate well to comic panels. There are never any particularly gripping moments in the illustrations, and I found myself skimming over the images as I was waiting for the book to reach its inevitable conclusion. Baez is not untalented, but this book is not a great showcase of what he’s likely capable of.
Action Lab doesn’t give an age rating for this title. Though there’s nothing particularly objectionable in the content, the book would probably be most appealing to older teens and adults due simply to its focus on the world of corporate advertising and office politics. The most engaging moments come from the fleeting humor of one member of the board of directors known simply as The Elder, a haunting grim reaper-like being who is always primed to mete out supernatural punishment. Even with that, there’s simply not much here to appreciate for an ambiguous target audience of kids or adults. I went in with high hopes and, regrettably, The Ghoul Agency‘s first volume just doesn’t deliver much beyond a premise full of potential.
The Ghoul Agency, Vol. 01: The DAGMAR
By Gene Selassie
Art by Orlando Baez
Action Lab, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: ages 9-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Black, Latinx