Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Publisher: Image Comics
This is my first experience with Frank Barbiere, but he has been making the rounds of the top comic publishers for the past few years. Barbiere has worked on Solar: Man of the Atom (Dynamite), The Broken World (BOOM!), Blackout (Dark Horse), Lobo (DC), Avengers World (Marvel), and White Suits, also published by Image.
This is also my first experience with Chris Mooneyham. Although his list of comic titles is shorter than Barbiere’s, it does seem his work on Predator: Fire and Stone (Dark Horse) has garnered him some great press. He also did work in Anathema (Tiny Behemoth Press).
Five Ghosts is the story of Fabian Gray, a 1930s era “treasure hunter.” Think Indiana Jones, and you’re probably close. Using Indy as reference also works for the feel of the story and premise. This is an adventure book, similar to the “men’s adventure books” from decades ago. Although I haven’t read far enough into the series, yet, I expect to find many of the tropes from pulp adventures (I’m expecting to see a “damsel in distress,” very soon…). However, our treasure hunter has a secret power (curse?): he is possessed by 5 ghosts. Specifically, 5 “literary” ghosts: the “detective”, the “wizard”, the “archer”, the “samurai”, and the “vampire” (they are not named in the 1st issue, but I think we can feel free to think of them as Sherlock Holmes, Merlin, Robin Hood, Miyamoto Musashi, and Dracula). Through some incident in his past, Gray was possessed by the ghosts, and he is able to draw upon their abilities to assist in his adventures. Sometimes. When trying to cross from one mountain to a castle on another mountain, Gray uses the archer’s skills to traverse the chasm. However, when fighting tribal warriors in Africa, the wizard’s powers fail Gray, and is taken prisoner. Gray’s motivation comes from his efforts to save his sister, who seems cursed, as well. He will need all of his treasure hunting skills (and his ghosts’ powers, too!) to find a way to save his sister (and possibly himself!).
The first issue was a quick read, but it was enjoyable. I find a certain enjoyment in this kind of story. Yes, the plot is not deep; find things, save people (maybe the world, too??). I enjoy the adventure of it. Yes, we do see him fight Nazis. Yes, we do see him fight African tribesman (are they simply tribesman, though?). Yes, there is a bi-plane involved. And, yes, there is a real bad guy (who answers to even badder bad guys). And, the occult/mysticism seems to touch every player in the story. While I am not a fan of all of the original elements of pulp adventures (i.e. “damsel-in-distress,” noted above…), done well with a modern feel, these stories can be great fun.
What really stood out, for me, though, was Chris Mooneyham’s art. It is an interesting combination of very detailed and very simple, all at the same time; which seems perfect for adventure, but I suspect it could work well for just about any kind of story. He has this moody, eery feel, but everything still seems real. Which, really, does sound like the right look for a book combining old-fashioned adventure and the occult. I find Mooneyham’s art similar to Lee Weeks, a veteran artist who has worked extensively for Dark Horse, DC, and Marvel, but is most well-known for his work on Marvel’s Daredevil (which has also been known to mix adventure and mysticism).
I read issue #1 as part of the first collection of Five Ghosts (“The Haunting of Fabian Gray”). Since I am a notoriously slow reader, I had to stop at one issue, so I could complete this review. However, I fully intend to read the remainder of this collection. Just for fun. Five Ghosts ran for 17 issues, plus a special, and has been collected into 3 trade paperback collections (vol 1 contains issues 1-5, vol 2 contains issues 6-12, and vol 3 contains issues 13-17 and the special), each priced between $9.99 and $14.99.
Five Ghosts, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex. located at:
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Manayunk, PA 19127
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