Saturday, October 12, 2013

Haunted by Missed Opportunities

Five Ghosts:  The Haunting of Fabian Gray, Vol. 1
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Illustrated by Chris Mooneyham
Published by Image
2 1/2 Out of 5 Stars

2 1/2 Stars.

Part Indiana Jones, part Gambit, part James Bond and all pulp, Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray starts off as a fun throwback to the classic adventure narrative of the 30's and 40's. And then it does a cannonball into an empty pool, which is to say the creators really should have paid more attention as to where this thing was going.

Fabian Gray is a charming and handsome master thief who has spent his life acquiring some of the world's finest antiquities, with the help of his twin sister. However, when he and his sister attempt to steal The Dreamstone, things go cockeyed. Now his sister is in a coma and Fabian has five shards of The Dreamstone lodged in his chest--and within each stone is the essence of an archetypal figure: the detective, the samurai, the wizard, the archer and the vampire. Trapped within Gray's body, Gray can draw upon the powers of these "ghosts" to aid him in his newest quest--to find the artifact that will cure his sister. 

Set in the 1930's, Mooneyham evokes the look and feel of the pulp comics from that time period, adding to the overall narrative.  Things won't be easy for Fabian--supernatural forces are working against him, exotic locales need visiting, beautiful women need ravishing, and the "ghosts" are becoming increasingly unhappy over their imprisonment within Gray. And this is where the narrative lost me. Fabian must pass a test created by each of his ghosts, from which he will gain profound insight. These "tests" are anticlimactic, confusing, and miss the opportunity for some creative integration of the literary world inhabited by each of these ghosts. Each test could have been an issue in and of itself. 

While Barbiere squanders this opportunity, I'm hoping it's simply because Five Ghosts started as a limited 5 issue story arc. Since it has been granted ongoing series status, I will cautiously read the next few issues and remain optimistic that Five Ghosts will deliver on the initial promise I saw in the first two issues.

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