Writer(s): FRANK J. BARBIERE
Artist(s): CHRIS MOONEYHAM
US Publisher: Image
A tale of a treasure hunter who hosts 5 different spirits (Ghosts) all with different skill sets. Told in a good old fashion pulp style.
I hate it when I arrive late to a party, and even hate it more when I discover a great comic so late after its initial publishing.
This comic read from the beginning to end, as a joyous pulp story from the 30’s. I am talking about Doc Savage, The Spider or Fantomas type of pulp.
I was in the comic bookstore, and started eyeing the first issue. I read it all. Right there. And then I went to the counter, and asked the owner for the other issues. He told me they only had what I found on the shelf, staggered numbers like 1, 5, 6, 8 etc… but he offered me the TPB which I took together with my number 1.
The geek in me expects to have it signed one day by Mooneyham!
This comic lured me in with the art. As any comic should. If you want story-driven narrative, that’s what books are for. This guy, very unknown to me until them, Chris Mooneyham, captured me by following a maxim that I’ve been preaching to neophytes in the art world “If you are going to copy, copy from the best, and make them yours!”
He adopts a harsh style, that will remind the savvy reader of the lines of Klaus Janson, with the pencils of John Buscema. And I don’t write this lightly. I actually found panels where I saw Chris Mooneyham taking panels from the 70’s Conan comics, but making them his. And without looking this guy up on Comicvine, I will venture that he must be in his 30’s, maybe even closer to 40. And this is a compliment, (albeit it may not read like one) praising him on his savviness and choice of artists to emulate.
He puts so much soul and heart into the visual narrative aspect of the comic that makes almost comes across new. I showed the series to another comic lover of approximately my age, and he was able to relate to all the points I was making when praising Chris mooneyham’s art. Then we showed it to a younger friend, and he was also very impressed, although he had nowhere near the same level of exposure that we had to the breakdowns of Gil Kane, the layouts of John Buscema, the strength and plasticity of Frank Robbins, and a long etc.
He captures with elegance and apparent ease the essence of the comic, the pulp.
He brings classic back, and makes it sexy!
His concept on how to frame a panel is so spot on, that he makes me forget my innate abhorrence of pages with no gutters. Which is, by the way, one of my largest pet peeves when reading manga: Lack of gutters, and the art getting all jumbled and confusing.
But look at this guy doing a page with no gutters!
Seriously… I feel gushes of admiration overwhelm me. The treatment of black and white, with the addition of color feels complete. I can tell that if Five Ghosts had been published in black and white it would’ve still been amazing, but the colors are so complimentary that only enhance the final product.
Now, yes, I may be a fan of Mooneyham (as I will always pride myself to be of good art) but I still have a bone or two to pick with the book. In the first story line, The Hunting of Fabian Gray, we have some action set on Barcelona. Unfortunately, that amazing and bohemian modern city gets depicted as an unrecognizable and anonymous slum of any part of outskirts of Mexico DF.
That is just poor documentation, and I don’t know who to blame. The writer for spelling out such a flawed description of Barcelona, or the artist for not documenting himself better.
But since I was reading a masterful pulp story, I noticed it for 2 seconds and said “Fuck it” and continued reading, immersed in the story.
The next arch in the story of the title character puts him in the high-seas and has some pirate/buccaneer connotations. Again the avid reader will be able to see lots of winks and references to the Marvel Conan produced in the Bronce age, and particularly John Buscema.
But again, everything made personal, made Mooneyham, with a strong style, attention to detail, attention to story flow, and making the reader admire the work of art that is this synchronicity between script and paneled art, called Five Ghosts.
Here you can find good interview done by David Harper for Multiveristy (http://multiversitycomics.com/interviews/artist-alley-five-ghosts-9-with-chris-mooneyham-interview/) where they even talk about the influences on Mooneyham of the Classic Bronze age comics and his love for pulp.
Well, for that and other reasons on my critic’s rating I give Five Ghosts, by FRANK J. BARBIERE and CHRIS MOONEYHAM