February 8, 2014

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Five Ghosts 9


Written by Frank Barbiere
Illustrated by Chris Mooneyham
Published by Image Comics


Five Ghosts is a pulp adventure series with supernatural elements. It concerns the story of Fabian Gray, noted thief and adventurer, who comes into contact with a mystical artifact known as the Dreamstone (which becomes implanted in his chest). The Dreamstone gives Fabian the powers and abilities of five different literary character "ghosts," those being the Wizard, the Archer, the Detective, the Samurai and the Vampire. His ally in these efforts is his sister's fiancĂ©. His sister was seriously hurt as a result of the Dreamstone, and Fabian is on a quest to learn more about it and eventually heal her as well.


The current storyline is called "Lost Coastlines" and this is the third issue of that arc. Fabian has gotten in touch with a friend (more than just a friend, the book shows us), a master thief named Jezebel. They have gone off in search of treasure and answers, looking for the fabled Island of Dreams. However, dark forces are aligned against them. They are being pursued by Nazis (of course), and by a man named Asif Quintano, leader of the Sea Squids, who has reason to hate Fabian Gray (I get the impression there's a fair number of people out there that have reason to hate Fabian Gray).  In the current issue, we see that things have not gone so well for our heroes, and learn more about the history behind Asif's hatred of Fabian; I will just say that it is not without reason. We also get an extended flashback to Fabian's history with Asif and his associates. And lastly, we are shown that Fabian is not alone in his gifts.

This issue (and this series generally) have been a great deal of fun to read. I'm not particularly well-versed in pulp adventure stories, but you don't need to know a lot about the history of pulp stories to pick this up. The feel of this book is decidedly "old-school"; one character says "suffer, you whelp" and it doesn't feel out of place. Despite the retro feel, the book does what a lot of modern stories do, which is that every issue tells an exciting story (not necessarily self-contained), but the writer is also building a larger mystery to explore. 

The art is beautiful; it feels modern, but yet it also captures a more old-fashioned sensibility. Chris Mooneyham skillfully depicts action (chase sequences, sword fights, gun battles), and if some of the big, dramatic moments are rendered with a little bit of extra drama in the art, it feels appropriate for the story. The creators make an interesting artistic decision in this issue. For the flashback sequences when Fabian met Asif and his group while in Morocco, the coloring is rendered entirely in shades of sand, with light and dark browns (whereas the rest of the book is full-color). The linework in these sections appear to be rough pencil sketches by Mooneyham. Combined, these effectively connote a sense of distant, sepia-toned memories and the feel of the desert. I also liked the touch of using different style panel boxes for the flashback sequence. 

This issue leaves off at a dramatic moment, and we can expect more fighting, more daring adventure, and more mythology. Five Ghosts feels like "Indiana Jones" meets "The Unwritten" to me, and if that doesn't appeal to you, then I don't know what to say.