The third arc of Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham’s series continues in “Five Ghosts” #14 as Fabian Gray resumes his search for his missing friend Sebastian, as his quest brings him into contact with more of the undead that he encountered last issue. Barbiere also reveals what’s happened to Sebastian, although the exact circumstance behind it remains a mystery, and steps up the intensity this issue as Fabian fights perhaps his deadliest battle, as well as against one of the five spirits that dwell within him.
With over a dozen issues of the series under his belt, Barbiere has learned the best and most dynamic way to tell his story: to put complete faith in his artist and let him cut loose. Mooneyham does exactly that, and as early as the second page, with a dramatic introduction of a character whose identity should be apparent to those who pay close attention to Barbiere’s narrative and Mooneyham’s visual cues.
From there, as they have done for every issue to date, Barbiere quickly brings readers up to speed and then shuts up while Mooneyham’s visuals show the exact nature of Fabian’s powers. It’s a technique that works effectively in welcoming any brand new readers who happen to drop by, and also one that existing readers never get tired of seeing. This refresher isn’t a pause in the story; Mooneyham keeps the story moving along during this welcome, and Lauren Affe’s colors subtly nudge things along as well. Barbiere and Mooneyham don’t stop the train so readers can board, yet there’s no problem hopping on while it’s moving.
Mooneyham uses a course, gritty kind of line style that not only plays into the retro, more primitive feel of the story, but also works well for the many disturbing and horrific images that he frequently works into the issue. It succeeds perfectly for a nightmare sequence that’s capable of inducing additional nightmares, and even though the elements within this sequence have been used countless times, they’re no less effective thanks to Mooneyham’s delivery.
Barbiere uses very little dialogue after this point, and he doesn’t really need to. Very few words coupled with a preponderance of large panels in a comic; averaging around three per page from this point on; often conveys a feeling of padding and waste, but not so here. Instead, it expresses the larger-than-life threat being faced, and by executing it this way the story itself feels larger than most such comic stories normally would. Barbiere in turn builds off Mooneyham’s layouts to drill home the horror of what befalls Fabian, which is capped off with a final splash page that’s as creepy as any similar scene in other media.
“Five Ghosts” #14 is an amazingly crafted issue that’s one of the best examples of creative synergy currently being published. It’s also one of the most fun.