Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham's "Five Ghosts" #10 is another strong installment in this joy of a series. After the frenzy at the end of Issue #9, Issue #10 is more of a status quo setter than an action adventure, but it still delivers with more monsters and more mysteries.
This issue shows the creative team's pulpy, efficient sense of pacing. When Issue #9 concluded, the ship was aflame and pirates were attacking. Issue #10 opens not with a sea battle, not with a shipwreck, but with a crab scuttling along a deserted island. Mooneyham takes his time with these panels, and Affe's colors give the initial glimpse of the island a muted, quietly tropical feel. One of the strengths of "Five Ghosts" is how selective the creative team is about what appears onscreen and when. The dramatic jumps -- from sinking ship to peaceful shore, from peaceful shore to howling jungle -- create a sense of anticipation and variety. This story rarely keeps the same pace for more than a few pages, and it pays off.
The opening also made me appreciate Mooneyham's subtler thematic touches. The first few pages all zero in on different types of hands: a crab's claws, a weary human fist, and then the outrageous talons of the island's native monster. There's not a word of dialogue or scene-setting, but by tracing that focus point through all the island's different inhabitants, he creates just as strong a sense of setting.
"Five Ghosts" continues to move through its mythology at a fierce clip. As soon as Barbiere's answered one question, he's added another to the mix. This issue is no exception, and he keeps the secrets coming without ever frustrating the reader. He also smartly sandwiches the big reveal of what happened between the pirates' attack and now -- how did they get to this island? What happened to the ship? Did the villain survive? -- in the middle of the issue. Had Mooneyham and Affe made the opening less compelling, it might have annoyed me to wait. However, as it is, I was made all the more curious -- not only about what hadn't been answered from Issue #9, but by what was currently on the page.
Unfortunately, the reader still doesn't find out too much about Sinbad and her ghost -- darn it, she's the one I'm most curious about! -- but she and Jezebel dominate the issue. It's a nice break from the Fabian-heavy focus of the series that again demonstrates the creative team's canny sense of how stories should ebb and flow. The two survivors find out that the island has more in store for them than a temporary shelter, and the Dreamstones (surprise, surprise) are somehow involved. Prophecies, glimpses of a monster in the jungle and a late arrival to the island all add to my anticipation for the next installment.
You know this is a great series when the 'catch-up-with-the-team' issue still includes a giant crab, a greed monster and a doom-prophesying ghost. "Five Ghosts" is back in fine form with its imaginative Issue #10, and I can't wait for Issue #11.
(But seriously, tell me more about Sinbad.)