Recently promoted from limited to ongoing series, Image Comics’ Five Ghosts returned recently with a clever done-in-one illustrated by guest artist Garry Brown. Longtime readers will find that neither story nor art are diminished in its return (although you can say goodbye forever to the convenient five ghosts/five issues symmetry).
Five Ghosts tells the story of Fabian Gray, a treasure hunter – or perhaps he’s just a petty thief; accounts vary – who, thanks to exposure to a mystical substance called the Dreamstone, finds himself possessed by the spirits of five “literary ghosts,” never properly named but ostensibly Robin Hood, Merlin, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and Miyamoto Musashi. Fabian can call on the attributes of each spirit at will. The original five issues from writer Frank Barbiere and series illustrator Chris Mooneyham follow Fabian as he comes to terms with the consequences of his first encounter to the Dreamstone, which left his sister in a kind of supernatural coma.
With Fabian’s crisis of conscience behind them, the creators are free to explore this world in greater detail, and to follow up on the tantalizing cliffhanger that ended the series’ first arc. The big bad revealed at the close of issue five does not make an appearance in issue six, but this new chapter is so full of dueling samurai, possessed swords, double crosses, demons, and damsels in distress, that readers will scarcely notice.
The aesthetic of Five Ghosts will call to mind a far more modern “literary ghost,” a gentleman archaeologist of the fedora-and-bullwhip variety. However, that influence diminishes neither Five Ghosts’ creative high concept nor the originality of the title’s nuanced characters, which balance its high adventure and action set pieces. Garry Brown and Chris Mooneyham are incredible talents in their own right, but the transition from one style to the other is seamless, largely thanks to Lauren Affe, who colors both artists.
If there’s one complaint about Five Ghosts #6, it’s that the creative team didn’t take the opportunity to make the issue especially friendly to new readers. Fabian’s possession and his quest to reawaken his sister are glossed over, and the artistic technique used to show Fabian’s use of the ghosts’ attributes might seem muddled to the uninitiated.
New readers would do well to pick up issue #6 along the first trade paperback collection, which is affordably priced at less than ten bucks. Five Ghosts deserves the highest possible recommendation and is poised to maintain that level of quality for many issues, and ghosts, to come.
Eric Palicki is possessed by the literary ghosts of five different versions of Hunter S. Thompson. The first three issues of his own graphic novel, ORPHANS, are available exclusively on comiXology. Read his work for and about comics on his website. Follow him on Twitter.
Eric previously helped you Suit Up for a Suicide Mission in Amala’s Blade #1 and found more indie passion projects with Protectors #0 Will Have You Rooting for the Underdog