REVIEW: Five Ghosts #13

Five Ghosts #13
Story: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Chris Mooneyham
Colors: Lauren Affe
Letters: Dylan Todd
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 15, 2014

I’d been meaning to get around to this series for a while, after hearing some good things about “The Haunting of Fabian Gray”, but just couldn’t fit it into my schedule for some reason or another. Now that I’ve had the chance to read an issue, I’m kicking myself for not looking into Fabian Gray and his paranormal disorder much sooner.

With something of a revival in pulp-style fiction happening in comics right now, Five Ghosts sits atop the mountain of new books in the cross-genre genre, a creator-owned gem published by Image. It’s kind of hard to believe that this is the first professional outing by artist Chris Mooneyham and writer Frank J. Barbiere, given the quality of work in Five Ghosts. The art has a nice retro feel, subdued colors and heavy inks, that complement the mysterious tone of the book’s well thought out narrative.

That focus on mystery is why Five Ghosts has seen such great success, in my opinion, in its short run. What keeps bringing readers back is what we don’t know about Fabian Gray. We want to know when or if he will lose control, which persona will possess him to greatest effect, what the Dreamstone is and, perhaps, most importantly to the story, just who Fabian Gray really is.

Barbiere and Mooneyham have managed to create what is essentially a throwback character, from a different era of political niceties, and at the same time equip him with some very contemporary proclivities. Gray is an intrepid treasure hunter and like most of those (fictional) types, he is a pragmatist.

Earlier issues have also shown Gray to be an amoralist, which not surprisingly, has made him more accessible to audiences. He’s working through guilt issues and falls short of his own standards often and those faults, combined with the overarching psychological mayhem caused by his condition, make him more human, and conversely, more hero.

In this issue for instance, he helps a young messenger in the woods, not necessarily because it is the right thing to do, but because their paths crossed serendipitously. This fits with Gray’s character up to this point as well as forms the initial conflict in “Monsters and Men”.

Fabian stumbles upon a sleepy Romanian village suffering from the effects of both plague and a growing number of ghoulish citizens. Important to note that the mindless minions here are not of the re-animated corpse variety; they are transformed by a tonic given out by a traveling medicine man who ominously refers to himself as “The Good Doctor”.

Dracula, The Vampire archetype present in Gray’s host of familiar literary spirits, features fairly prominently in this issue as well. We are in Romania, you know. It’ll be interesting to see how Barbiere and Mooneyham unpack this story, as Gray has a particularly acute aversion to the resident bloodsucker.

Give this issue, and this series as whole, a look; I doubt you’ll be disappointed by what you uncover.

By: Adam Cadmon


4.5 out of 5 Stars

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