As a former goth who retains many of his spooky tendencies, this is my favorite time of the year. The time of Halloween, horror movie marathons, and making sure your asshole neighbors didn’t put razorblades in the candy again this year. The air is getting cooler (Just not in California), and it’s the perfect time of year to snuggle up in bed with a good book. But which book? That’s where I come in. Every day this month I’ll be suggesting a great horror comic series; some will be straight out tales of sheer terror, while others will be more subtle. We’ll have everything from ghosts, vampires, zombies, werewolves, and witches, to stories of less defined horror. So join me for 31 Days of Horror Comics.
Day 14 finds me reading Five Ghosts by Frank Barbiere and Future Comic Rock Star Chris Mooneyham. If you’ve read it, I know what you’re thinking. Sure it’s not technically a horror book, but it features ghosts prominently, so I’ll allow it. Five Ghosts was originally launched through a successful Kickstarter campaign before being picked up by Image Comics at New York Comic Con. This is after Barbiere sold out of his remaining copies of the book. The reason for both selling out and being picked up? A crazy concept executed well.
Five Ghosts is the story of adventurer Fabian Gray, who while treasure hunting comes across an artifact called “the Dreamstone” which grants him the ability to harness the power of five literary ghosts; the wizard, the archer, the detective, the samurai, and the vampire. He uses their unique abilities in his world travels and swashbuckling adventures, all while trying to bring back the sister he lost.
The story by Barbiere is a rollicking swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones or The Rocketeer, but spookier. Barbiere nails the style of the pulp era adventure stories, full of revenge plots, greedy villains, giant spiders, evil Germans, mysterious locations, and plenty of hubris to go around. The story is fast paced and full of action, never getting bogged down with weighty exposition. Somehow Five Ghosts immerses you in the familiar, while constantly doing the unexpected.
Chris Mooneyham elevates the book into classic territory, giving Five Ghosts a fitting pulp era feel that it requires. His art is lush with a superb attention to detail, and a classical newspaper strip feel. His pages are full of motion, and there’s a flow to his art that makes his pages pop. He has a refined yet loose inking style that reminds me of Klaus Janson, yet he makes it his own. The colors by Lauren Affe and S.M. Vidaurri augment Mooneyham’s linework with bold splashes when needed, and subtle hues when the story demands them. This whole creative team is perfect, and producing one of the most unique and enjoyable books in my library.
With it’s classic pulp inspirations and Mooneyham’s newspaper strip reminiscent art, there’s nothing else quite like Five Ghosts.