Volume 1: The Haunting of Fabian Gray
Volume 2: Lost Coastlines
Fabian Gray, an infamous treasure hunter (don’t call him a thief!), has an accidental encounter with an artifact called the Dreamstone. He finds himself possessed by the ghosts of five literary spirits, who are not named but seem to be Robin Hood, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and Miyamoto Musashi. At the same time, his sister’s soul is ripped from her by an otherworldly force. Calling on the skills and abilities of his ghosts, Gray seeks out a way to restore her to normal while also battling dark forces that want to use him and his powers for their own ends.
The creator and writer of this series, Barbiere, is a former English teacher. As you would expect there is a love of literature that permeates the work, but Barbiere also fearlessly takes the elements he uses in new and unexpected directions. He mixes in a healthy dose of Jungian archetypes to give shape to his story before inserting it into a WWII-era pulp adventure world. The result is an action-packed Indiana Jones tale… if Indiana Jones borrowed his whip-cracking skills from the ghost of Zorro!
Mooneyham’s art is perfect for conveying the atmosphere of the work. There’s a lot of energy in his style and he doesn’t skimp on the detail. The comic often feels as frenetic as a pulp serial; I’m exhausted after every chapter but I can’t wait to turn the page and see what happens next.
I don’t want to say too much more for risk of giving away plot points, but I do find it a little bothersome that no one in the comic really seems to understand that all the ghosts come from literature, even after it’s spelled out. No one reads a book to figure out what the ghosts can (and can’t) do. Not one character even seems familiar with any of the ghost characters or their sources. How are they “literary” ghosts when the literature doesn’t seem to exist in the world of the story?
The only other quibble I have is that the plot moves rather slowly. There is a lot of action, but Barbiere and Mooneyham are clearly having too much fun to get anywhere quickly. After reading the first two volumes I’m not convinced that the actual plot has made any progress, but to their credit I was left wanting more rather than being frustrated.
Five Ghosts has been picked up by Syfy for a television series, so you’ll probably be hearing more about it. If you like to lose yourself in a cinematic adventure tale, and especially if you enjoy stories that are as well-read as they are well-written, you’ll probably devour it just as quickly as I did.