“Five Ghosts” #7 by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham kicks off a new storyline featuring adventurer Fabian Gray, who still houses the ghostly essences of five classic literary figures that give Gray some pretty useful powers just when he seems to need them. The first chapter of “Lost Coastlines” builds on the events from the previous arc while presenting itself as a welcoming introduction to those just coming aboard, and Barbiere keeps things lively by introducing new characters, new locales and an intriguing new plot that builds upon an already fascinating premise.
Barbiere’s idea is attention-grabbing, but Mooneyham is the first of the creative team to seize readers’ attention, initially with his swashbuckling, adventurous cover that’s an attractive homage to the very notion of high-seas exploits, and one that’s just as beautifully yet simply colored by S.M. Vidaurri. He then crafts a wonderfully laid-out introductory nine-panel, three-page sequence whose relevance is puzzling at first, especially to new readers, but becomes somewhat clearer in retrospect as the issue progresses. Mooneyham has a striking approach, combining a Neal Adams-style dynamic with a Klaus Janson kind of roughness, and it’s perfectly suited to the timeless feel of Barbiere’s story, which itself seamlessly blends the look and feel from different eras. A modern-day jewel thief seems right at home in the same comic with pirates who looked like they time-traveled from the 18th century.
Gray looks every bit the square-jawed, suave hero as scripted by Barbiere and rendered by Mooneyham, and the artist gives the issue its ghostly look by skillfully adding in the ghost images of the literary characters from which Gray draws his powers. This not only enhances the storyline by adding a supernatural element, but it also lets new readers in on the nature of Gray’s powers and lets them know which ghost is the source. When Gray is researching a way to help a colleague, for example, readers know that the detective skill of Sherlock Holmes’ spirit is lending him an ethereal hand.
Both creators combine to deliver a story with punchy pacing that never lets itself get stale; every scene establishes a tempo that supports it. An early scene that introduces Gray, his motives and his powers is perfectly sized at four pages, telling readers everything needed to proceed without dragging on. The subsequent and longer sequence introduces a new character, stylishly laid out in a manner that reveals her skills and prowess, which in turn sets up the final scene where the two main characters are introduced and the scenario for the remainder of the story is established.
“Five Ghosts” #7 is a pleasantly eclectic and nicely-constructed issue that plays especially to fans of pulpy-style adventures, but can all-too-readily be enjoyed by others, as well. This series has already won awards, and for good reason; great writing, attractive art, an appealing idea and a unique mix of styles make this comic difficult to ignore.