Every now and again there’s a buzz book that lives up to the hype. When I first the announcements for Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray, my initial thought was that it was a rehash of Cowboy Ninja Viking, an Image book from 2-3 years ago with a similar premise of a man who could channel the skills of three different people.
Other than that bit about channeling different skill sets, the two comics are as different as they could be and the channeling is set up much differently. Five Ghosts is an adventurer pulp with a supernatural theme. Our hero, Fabian Gray is the victim of demonic possession. It isn’t really explained in this debut issue, so much as manifested, but Gray is possessed by five “literary ghosts: The Wizard (not sure if that’s Merlin, but close enough), The Archer (Robin Hood), The Detective (Sherlock Holmes), The Samurai (couldn’t tell you which one) and The Vampire (Dracula). Gray is a treasure hunter (much like Henry Jones, Jr.) and if he encounters a problem, say… he runs into some Nazis, he can call upon the skills and powers of those ghosts. The trouble is, he’s starting to have lapses of control.
A specific year isn’t mentioned, save that it’s after 1932, but this is set in the years just before WWII. Which is to say, Indiana Jones territory, but with more sorcery afoot. Gray also has some unpleasant and unnatural people/things looking him. The atmosphere is very well developed and writer Frank Barbiere does a good job of both pacing and giving you just enough information to move along with the story while keeping the nature of Gray’s possession a bit of mystery. This is subject matter that can cross over into cheesy very easily and it doesn’t.
As much as I enjoyed the script, the star turn may belong to artist Chris Mooneyham. Mooneyham is everything artistically good about the 80s and early 90s put into a blender mixed up and then put through a strainer to remove the excess speed lines. At first glance, I thought the primary influence was Jim Lee, but upon closer examination, I see a lot of Walt Simonson, some Alan Davis and a bit of Howard Chaykin. All the while, keeping the art fairly clean and away from the extra detail lines that became a bit of a cliche as the 90s wore on.
This is a double issue and proceeds full speed ahead. It opens en media res and ends with the beginning of a new expedition after the pieces are introduced on the chessboard. It’s a very nice little package.
What to liken it to? Temple of Doom played straight? It’s not as dark, but a pulpier 1930s version of Hellblazer isn’t all that far off. This is a far better mystical adventurer comic than Constantine. Fans of Fatale may like this one, though it’s less noir. I could see where it might be a complimentary good to The Sixth Gun, as well. It’s probably more BPRD than Hellboy, particularly the flashback BPRDs.
If you like pulp adventure, monsters or the horror/action hybrid, I recommend this highly. If you’re not, track down an issue and have a look at the art. It’s a pretty book.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.