“Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray” #3, is a non-stop, action-packed adventure. Mythology, conflict, and mystery swirl around an apex of imagination, and in this issue every element is being drawn together by the forceful control of the creative team.
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Illustrated by Chris Mooneyham
“ENTER: THE FORGOTTEN CITY!”
In a fantastic valley…far from the eyes of man…Fabian Gray meets THE GUARDIAN OF DREAMS!
Barbiere’s writing represents a seamless marriage of the pulp and comic genres with literary flair in “Five Ghosts.” The title offers a multifaceted array of conflicts. Ostensibly, Fabian is set against the five literary ghosts which are fused with his essence. They are trying to break away from their host, and instigating literal, physical struggles. The series also makes use of an antagonist set on wreaking havoc and destroying the link between Fabian and the ghosts. Iago, as in Othello Iago, is in pursuit of Fabian and his cohort. His presence in the story ensures chaos and unbridled depravity are sure to ensue. Lastly, “Five Ghosts” presents the internal struggle Fabian experiences as he attempts to resolve the dueling aspects of his nature. He must find a way to condense the greedy, self-important, thrill-seeking part of himself with the better, more generous aspect of his nature. These layered conflicts manifest in an unpredictable plot. Because the conflicts provide such variety, the story can confront any one of them at any given time and maintain momentum.
“Five Ghosts” carefully constructs a mythology, without forcing characters to continually spew out unsolicited information on the topic. Instead, the mythos is skillfully woven into the action of this story, powering the world of Fabian Gray. The series presents the idea that as humans, we are all linked by stories, which are powered by the universal imagination of unconscious dreams. These dreams permeate reality through the dreamstone, a mystical relic with immense power. This exploration of shared consciousness is immensely important to the events that take place in the third issue of this series. Shards of the dreamstone have become a part of Fabian, the pieces of the artifact are embedded in his chest. This grants him access to five literary ghosts, who each have a power related to an archetype which is part of the collective consciousness. While making use of their abilities, he must struggle to stay in control of the power within him.
This issue is set in the Forgotten City of Shangri-La, which beautifully illustrated by Chris Mooneyham. Throughout the series, his art has combined grit and fantasy. His contributions to “Five Ghosts” are one part blue print, with an impeccable sophistication and specificity; and one part pure expressive, kinetic, and dynamic energy. His work in this issue is full of emotion and vitality. Mooneyham stays true to what is quickly becoming recognizable as his signature style, which uses brushy line, subjective color, and retro realism to great effect. The highest notes in this issue artistically are two double page spreads. One of these offers a view of The Forgotten City, that sparks the imagination and inspires a connection to the sense of wonder that the series strives to give the audience. The second spread focuses on a departure from the larger narrative, the story of the dreamstone. Visually, this sequence reflects the distinct separation between the legend and the current story. Mooneyham shifts his artistic tone changing the color palette, and adopting a more impressionist aesthetic. These new elements come together in a striking way. From the intricate illustration of a Jules Vernean airship, to his depiction of the title character striking a death blow; Mooneyham’s art indicates the skill and commitment to quality which make his art truly extraordinary.
The characters in this series are all distinctly recognizable in their rendering and their dialogue. Each person involved in the ongoing saga of Fabian Gray has a well established reason to be there and a powerful motivation driving their actions. The consistency with which each character is developed gives a weightiness to the story. What is happening on the pages of this book matters so much, to so many characters, in so many different ways; one can not help getting invested.Continued below
“Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray” #3 continues to prove the viability of the creative forces behind the title. This book represents an homage to the stories that define us, and invites us to consider what our investment in those stories might mean. Following Fabian on his quest to understand his power, give us the opportunity to examine our own links to the stories we carry within us. While the book is an action story, an adventure thriller, and a tale of mystery; at it’s heart, it is a love story. “Five Ghosts,” reminds us what we love about being readers, what it feels like to dream or imagine, and how that capacity unites all of us.
Final Verdict: 9.2–Entertaining, thought-provoking, beautiful… everything you love about funny books.