After thoroughly enjoying the first issue of Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray, I’ve been looking forward to this comic and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed by it. Written by Frank J. Barbiere and drawn by Chris Mooneyham, Five Ghosts is an action-adventure story with supernatural elements that’s grounded in the trappings of a pre-WW2 pulp genre and setting.
The eponymous hero of Five Ghosts is Fabian Gray, a supernaturally empowered Indiana Jones style treasure hunter, as he seeks a cure for his comatose sister’s magical affliction. Fabian is able to call upon the ghosts of five characters from classic fiction - a wizard, an archer, a detective, a samurai and a vampire - and utilize their abilities to aid him as any situation demands. As you can probably imagine, this makes Fabian a highly competent yet dangerous and unpredictable individual. In keeping with its pulp genre, Five Ghosts is set in the 1940s - a time where world travel is quick enough to allow the cast to move around various exotic locations but without eliminating the possibility of hidden civilizations, the mysterious or the unexplored.
Where the first issue was a fairly even mix between action, introducing us to the characters and their motivations and establishing Fabian’s main objective, issue #2 is pretty much all action. The comic opens with a well-crafted flashback sequence, showing us interwoven images from three parallel different times in Fabian’s life, before returning us to the peril Fabian and his sidekick found themselves in at the end of issue #1. Through the course of the prolonged action sequences a new twist is introduced to the story and we begin to see the negative side-effects of Fabian’s powers take hold.
While Barbiere’s dialogue is serviceable and his plotting for this issue is as competent as it is straightforward, it is Mooneyham’s superb artwork which lifts Five Ghosts #2 above the crowd of unsophisticated action comics competing for our attention. Mooneyham’s panel transitions are excellent throughout, giving a fluidity and pace to the all-important fight and chase sequences which make up so much of this issue, with his inks seamlessly varying between fine lines for detailing and thicker swathes of textured, heavy black for shadows and making characters or objects ‘pop’ off the page. Mooneyham’s layouts cram in more panels than you might expect for a comic which is predominantly comprised of action and it makes Five Ghosts #2 a much denser read that it could otherwise have been, with Barbiere wisely refraining from crowding out the pages in unnecessary dialogue. S.M. Vidaurri’s coloring is similarly excellent, giving each page its own palette to enhance the moody atmosphere which hangs over the comic like a raincloud.
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #2 is a seamless continuation of the exciting first issue, with even more emphasis on the action and the same consistently brilliant illustration. In the two issues released so far, Five Ghosts has not been a thematically or meaningfully deep story but in terms of its aesthetic surface and delivery of its cathartic moments it absolutely shines. If you like the sound of a pulp genre adventure comic with aspects of horror added into the mix then this comic is surely worth your time; the creators of Five Ghosts know its purpose, understand the possibilities and restrictions of its subgenre and ensured that it excels within that space.
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 4/17/13