This six-issue series has been slow to get moving, but "Ghosted" #3 by Joshua Williamson and Goran Sudzuka finally gets firmly entrenched in its promised paranormal environment. In Williamson's story, master thief Jackson Winters and his crew set up shop in the very old and very haunted Trask mansion, undertaking their mission to steal nothing less than one of the mansion's lingering ghosts at the behest of a wealthy and eccentric collector of all things paranormal.
No, this isn't a comedy or a parody of any kind; the straight-faced premise of this book truly is a rich collector has hired a thief to steal a ghost. As carefully executed by Williamson, the story isn't at all as laughable or as ridiculous as might be inferred; instead, now at the halfway point, the story has proven itself to be a cleverly crafted one, despite its sluggish start. The cast of characters is well-defined, there are twists aplenty as some of their various hidden motivations are hinted at, and there some pretty trippy and outright creepy moments spread throughout.
Williamson gives many of his characters that edgy, badass vibe, but manages to stay away from the stereotypes often associated with that kind of personality. Winters is a tough guy, for example, but one with a penchant for expensive tailored suits and an odd sort of death wish, all while adhering to some degree of a work ethic by taking the job he was hired to do seriously, despite its implausible nature. And despite his abrasive demeanor, he looks out for the safety of his team by limiting their time in the ghostly mansion to the perceived safety of daylight hours.
The story is also greatly enhanced by Williamson's keen ear for natural but fresh-sounding dialogue that stays clear of cliches. The dislike all the characters have for each other makes for some colorful but clever quotes. While the mystery and horror backdrops set the tone for the issue, it's the characters and their interactions that carry it. Williamson pulls off a difficult task: constructing a character driven story with a cast whom readers have only known for three issues. Some cast members are more interesting than others; Winters, would-be ghost collector Markus Schrecken, and stage magician Robby Trick all have a clever hook, while Schrecken's muscle woman Anderson Lake, for example, is more of a straightforward, Black Widow-type character. All have a place in the story, though; none are two-dimensional or wasted.
Williamson borrows a lot of the paranormal / horror elements from well-known sources like "The Sixth Sense," "Poltergeist" and "Scream," but uses them all to great effect. There are no blatant rip-offs; everyone has seen the character from the picture hanging in the hallway follow those walking by with their eyes, but Williamson makes sure that if he uses such a motif, that there's a good reason for it and an eventual payoff that comes from it. He freely uses such basic concepts as a haunted mansion to build his story, but with these pieces is able to still construct something fresh.
Artist Goran Sudzuka has an uncanny knack of rendering detail only where needed, without overpowering every panel with minutiae. The exterior and interior of the mansion are exquisitely drafted, but he's not afraid to leave a background relatively sparse when no such detail is required. The entire issue is clean and attractive with no clutter. And he draws a diverse array of ghostly apparitions just as well as anyone.
This is the issue that sells readers on the rest of the series, and anyone who might have given up after finding a paranormal presence largely lacking in the previous issues will find what they were looking for in this one.