Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Five Reasons to Read Five Ghosts

Today marks the release of a comic called Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray. With just this first issue released, it already marks a huge success for the project that humbly began with a Kickstarter last year. The campaign managed to catch enough wind in its sails until Image picked up the project, and we should all be thankful to those people who kept this comic alive, because Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray is fantastic and everyone should read it. Hit the jump for five reasons you should be reading this comic.

Story by: Frank Barbiere
Art by: Chris Mooneyham

“Well if you know anything about me, you know I wasn’t really alone”
The concept
After coming into contact with an artifact known as “the dreamstone,” infamous treasure hunter Fabian Gray was possessed by five literary ghosts and can now access their unique abilities. The concept itself sounds awesome, but the characters that have possessed Fabian make it even better. Even though the comic never outright says who the ghosts are, the answer should be pretty obvious from the pictures and abilities.

Fabian can call upon the powers of Merlin, Sherlock, Robin Hood, Musashi, and Dracula at will. What does this mean exactly? Well it means that whenever Fabian is in trouble he becomes a super accurate, agile, intelligent, blood-sucking, sword-wielding, magician. The first issue shows us how effective all of these powers can be when Fabian singlehandedly storms a castle, smashes some Nazi faces, and runs away with the treasure without breaking a sweat.

 “It’s about time I dealt with some unfinished business.”
More to be found beneath the surface
While on the surface Five Ghosts is a story about Fabian plundering castles and women, the heart of the comic lies much deeper than that. Fabian once had a twin sister, but tragedy stole her away from him when he first made contact with “the dreamstone.” She now waits in a catatonic state while Fabian tries his best to find a cure.

Fabian is a flawed man who now uses his gift to search out a cure for his sister’s ailment. This forces him to take on many jobs with supernatural rumors surrounding them. If one of these artifacts holds the key to his sister’s salvation, then he will stop at nothing to attain it, but that won’t be easy. Fabian’s abilities and fame seem to have spread too far and malevolent forces seek him out to steal his abilities, while he is also steadily losing control more often from his demonic possession. This all builds into a tightly wound Indiana Jones kind of story with a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vibe to it.

“Roses are planted where thorns grow, and on the barren heath sing the honey bees.”
Literary influence
This comic is drenched in literature from the classic literary ghosts who inhabit our main character to the gothic romanticism themes and style. Classic romantic themes such as heroic isolation of the main character, adventures in the supernatural, psychological dealings, and exotic locales are all present.

It becomes even more obvious that the romantic vibe is very deliberate when the end of the comic presents a few lines from William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Just by including these lines, Barbiere gives a hint of more perilous journeys to come for Fabian. Considering Barbiere’s background in English, we can expect these themes to be present throughout and help elevate this story above its peers.

“You know, with you being in Spain and all, I figured you’d have a tan, but you look like a ghost.”
The art
Guys, I cannot emphasize this enough, Five Ghosts is gorgeous. Mooneyham has a way with creating moody art. From the deep shadows to the muted colors, every panel sets a very specific mood with a pulp noir feel to it all. One of the features I most enjoy is how the literary ghosts are present. When Fabian uses one of their abilities, their ghostly presence appears next to him guiding his actions, a subtle yet powerful way of showing the ghost’s abilities.

“I suppose the adventure begins again, eh?”
A story for comics
The style and story are something that is best made for a medium where the only thing limiting your story is your imagination. Big, wild, moody, smart, and beautiful, this is a story made for comics that wouldn’t be easily accomplished anywhere else. In one issue we’ve already seen castle plundering, Nazi punching, planes crashing in Africa, and spider-eyed tribal men. This would all seem ludicrous if Barbiere and Mooneyham didn’t pull it off with such skill. With four issues left, I expect things to only get better.

Nevin P. Jones – Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think of Five Ghosts!

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