In it’s debut arc, Five Ghosts was an exciting new series that hinted at a vast amount of potential for future story telling and world building. As a pulp influenced character study, the series centered on Fabian Gray, a thief with the powers of Sherlock Holmes, a Shogun, Dracula, Merlin & Robin-Hood. New comers Frank Barbiere & Chris Mooneyham created a vibrant, exciting and imaginative story that refitted classic iconography for a story about family, friendship and redemption. Now almost two years after the series debut, Five Ghosts is still visceral and exciting, but it’s failed to grow into anything more then that and as the book closes out on it’s third arc, it’s starting to feel as if the series will never reach it’s full potential.
On a surface level, Five Ghosts is still very good at doing what it’s always done. Barbiere does a strong job of incorporating aspects of pulp fiction and classic adventure stories to coalesce into an exciting story and Mooneyham’s sketchy visual story telling style is perhaps the most underrated interior work in comics with it’s vibrancy and unpredictability. But where all that felt new & exciting in the series early stages, it’s evolved slowly into a complacent monster of the week style narrative that rarely deviates from it’s formula. And while there is a consistency to that, it’s also highly redundant and that’s not helped by the fact that much of the elements utilized in the stories plot are character’s and concepts from more famous stories of the past. What you end up with is a book that is fun but rarely anything else. Reading Five Ghosts is like eating a box of doughnuts, it starts out delicious but the sugar high wears off after awhile and each bite starts to feel worst. Which is a shame because Bariere & Mooneyham have both shown that they can do fantastic work on other books since Five Ghosts debuted but it seems that they haven’t put much thought into expanding on this series central tenant as they have on those other comics.
This isn’t to say that Five Ghosts is bad per say, it’s still enjoyable in a very basic sense of the word and the visuals alone keep this series worthy of a pull whenever a new issue is released. But what Five Ghosts is falls short of what it could have been and that can’t help but feel a little disappointing no matter how good it is on aesthetic level. Barbiere and Mooneyham are so talented and Five Ghosts consistency is a credit to that, but they are better then consistently average, which unfortunately, Five Ghosts is not.
In Five Ghost, a big part of it’s success has hinged on the synchronicity and creativity of writer Frank Barbiere and artist Chris Mooneyham. Barbiere is a guy with big idea’s while Mooneyham is an eclectic and vibrant illustrator whose electric pulp style jumps off the page. It makes for a great mixture and while Five Ghosts doesn’t always work; when those guys are on it’s a thing of beauty. The current run has been a marked improvement, it’s tighter and more concise while not negating any of the books strengths and issue fifteen is one of the best in the series. Like on Predator: Fire & Stone a lot of what makes this issue work involves Barbiere getting out of the way of Mooneyham as it’s mostly one long fight scene between vampire Fabian Gray and his hunting companion. This isn’t to negate what Barbiere does here as it’s his plotting that lead to this point and gives it the context and poignancy but it’s execution by Mooneyham is fantastic. It’s a thrilling and fluid throw down with outside moments laced in between the action that make this issue so thrilling in particular. It’s funny, for a series that’s relied on it’s high concept and imaginative story telling, one of it’s best issues is it’s most simple. That’s because as great as the writing, world building and character work has been on Five Ghosts, this part of the story tells itself.
(Expect a longer article at some point on the whole of Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone event.)
It has been a long time since I paid any attention to what Dark Horse was doing outside of The Massive, Star Wars, and Hellboy. But with the former ending in two months and DH losing the galaxy far, far away, I’ve started checking in from time to time to see what the company was planning to succeed those lost titles. Other than Brian Wood’s upcoming revolutionary war series and Rafael Albuquerque’s Ei8ht, not much else tickled my fancy. But with my dwindling Marvel and DC numbers, I was ready to give anything else a chance.
That was when I picked up Predator #1 on a whim. I went back to my apartment and read it. Minutes after closing the cover, I emailed Tryke at my LCS, asking him to put aside all F&S issues for me. The issue had me hooked.
While Aliens is interesting and AVP is fun, Prometheus and Predator stood above. This issue follows suit, and even finds a way to improve.
The issue opens with a flashback showing how the seasoned veteran Predator aboard the Perses lost his right eye. This allows the story to naturally bring in carnage and adventure to an issue nearly void of both, yet you don’t find yourself missing them when they are not there. Somehow Williamson gives us the human/Predator buddy cop comic we never knew we wanted.
The story is simple. Galgo, pilot of the Perses and all-around scumbag, found a Predator gun. He is tracked down by a band of Predators during which everyone except Galgo and One-Eyed Willie are taken out. The predator retrieves the gun and shows Galgo what he is truly after: an Engineer.
Those of you who’ve seen Prometheus or are reading the series of the same name know that the Engineers are the god-like, malicious beings who created humanity on Earth. Some are big (the one seen in the movie), while others are HUGE (the one in Ridley Scott’s Alien as well as in the Fire and Stone series).
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because I do HIGHLY recommend picking up the series, so I will just say everything is brutal. And the brutality is perfectly captured by Mooneyham’s art. Scratchy and raw, he depicts the world harsher than the other three artists, and it works beautifully in this context.