Review: Five Ghosts Special #1

Several months ago, I got a sneak peek of the upcoming Five Ghosts Special that was planned for release reportedly to unleash some of the origin stories of the mystical Dreamstone and the core to its powers. The sneak peek was a look at the cover and the blurb spoke of featuring the art of S.M. Vidaurri who has drawn some incredible covers in the series already.  With this special issue, Vidaurri has been given an open story to write what he wants and to expand the world of Fabian Gray in what has already been an incredible mythology set up by creators Frank Barbiere (writer) and Chris Mooneyham (artist). The cover released early flat-out rocked showing some sort of blue flaming demon knight.  How this would fit in to Fabian’s story, who the hell knew?  But I did know at that time that just from that sight alone (and the fact that I love this series), I was ready to tackle this giant size issue and see what wonderful mysteries that it would unfetter into my imagination and reading enjoyment.

Five Ghosts Special #1 consists of two tales.  The first, “The Demon and the Dreamstone” is the aforementioned tale written and painted by S.M. Vidaurri.  This story features an early rendition of the Dreamstone tale taken from both a book as well as an event related to a demon who possessed the stone as well as the person who allegedly became the demon based on the book. The story is written in both past and present and has a creepy fairy tale feel to it.

Five-Ghosts---Special-#1-1The second story, “Boats Against the Current”, is a brief (way brief) story featuring Fabian and a rather well-known character from literary history.  Fabian has come to this person’s mansion with a heist on his mind.  But the tides very well may turn against him.  Told mostly with the art through the use of intense action sequences, this tale features Five Ghosts creator Frank Barbiere on the writing and artist Jamie Jones putting in the visual flare.  This story takes on an entirely different tone from the first story in every way.

There is very little that I can say in the negative regarding S.M. Vidaurri’s story.  It is well paced, etched in myth, and absolutely beautifully drawn, worthy of being described as true art.  It is beautiful in a dark way.  Everything about this story all the way from the framing of the panels to the outside bordering.  It all made this tale nearly flawless and a wonderful insight into the Dreamstone lore and legend in reference to what kind of power can be harnessed. As well as the potential destruction that it can reap should it overcome its possessor.  I was in awe of the sequences and really felt sad to see this one end. I think everything with this issue should have stopped right there.

But unfortunately for this issue, it doesn’t stop there. With the second tale, everything felt terribly misplaced and almost like an afterthought, simply trying to fill in space from the first tale.  This story is mostly action and the writing by Barbiere, though minimal, seems to cover what it was wanting to convey.  The fault that I found in this story was in Jamie Jones’ art.

Now let me state right here, I like Jamie Jones’ art style most of the time. Some of the covers that I have seen him do are quite nice and well detailed.  But as a fan who has been following Five Ghosts from the beginning and seeing the style that it typically is written in, Jones’ “gee wiz” whimsy that is placed with this story just doesn’t feel right with the series at large. And it all seemed horribly positioned after Vidaurri’s more poignant tale. I think this was a huge miscalculation in a series that has always managed to hit things right for the most part.

As for the extras, there is nothing really out of the ordinary.  We have some of the sketches and paintings of both Jones and Vidaurri respectively that only helps to illuminate the fact that Vidaurri’s story was immensely better. I do like the sketches of Jones here with this section.  I think perhaps his work could have been better aided in a different issue and not where such an atomic blast of art was laid out right off the bat. It just doesn’t get a fair shake here.

Scoring for this issue was tough due to the dramatic night and day differences of the stories.  “The Devil and the Dreamstone” was a straight up 5/5.  It was wonderful.  As for “Boats Against the Current”, 2/5 was about as good as I could go.  Jones’ art just doesn’t make the cut from what Fabian Gray has become in the run of this series.  And this is a shame as I do really like Jones’ style in other capacities.  Just not here in this issue.

Balancing these two down, I think that you do get a very solid 3/5 with a recommendation that the first story is A+ material and worth the purchase.  The price at $3.99 is also worth it as you do get (at least) one top shelf story that is full length. Of course, if you have been reading Five Ghosts and know it for what it is, I think that Vidaurri’s story cannot be passed up.  It is quite good.

Score: 3/5

Five Ghosts Special #1 Writers: S.M. Vidaurri, Frank J. Barbiere Artists:  S.M. Vidaurri, Jamie Jones Colorists:  S.M. Vidaurri, Kelly Fitzpatrick Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/13/15 Format: One-Shot; Print/Digital