Barbiere, Frank & Chris Mooneyham. Five Ghosts. 2013.

Five Ghosts is a throw back to the pulp-style comics that were churned out in the 1920’s & 1930’s with a vibe similar to Doc SavageThe Spirit or The Phantom. The premise is that treasure hunter Fabian Gray has been possessed by five ghosts/spirits whose abilities he can tap into during his adventures.

Indiana Jones is the obvious comparison to Fabian, as he adventures around the world, seducing many women and stealing historical artifacts. He harnesses the skills of an archer, a wizard, a detective, a samurai and a vampire to help him on his quests although it exhausts him afterwards. We learn some back story of Fabian, and meet his best friend and fellow adventurer Sebastian. Sebastian was romantically involved with Fabian’s sister Silvia, who is now mysteriously in a coma, due to the connection to the Dreamstone that gives Fabian his powers. The two men search for the key to save her, and have to fight evil Nazis, Occultists and other worldly creatures as Fabian learns to properly be the vessel of the five ghosts.

The illustrations by Chris Mooneyham are excellent, with a a dark sepia colored palette to match the nostalgic adventure themed narrative. The lettering, especially on opening chapters, is evocative of the pulp fiction comics that Five Ghosts is paying homage to. The layout of the story was appealing, with some full page spreads and some interestingly varied panel configurations.

However, I was uncomfortable with the way different cultures were portrayed in this novel, and that would be a collaboration between author and artist. When Fabian crash lands in Africa (with no more designation that that) he and Sebastian are captured by primitive loin cloth wearing natives who worship a spider god, and they are tied up as a sacrifice to the spiders. The only reason why the men escape, is due to a mystical Asian man who helps fight off the spear-wielding tribe members, and then whisks them off to Shangri-La. This exoticism of the Orient and showing African natives as savage are crude stereotypes that I believe are wrong. I find it ironic that a book that is paying tribute to five literary figures would repeat damaging literary tropes elsewhere.

While the story line is set up for many more adventures, I will pass. I flipped through volume two, but did not take the time for a thorough reading, for it seemed to repeat many of the same issues I found in volume one. This throwback story had some intriguing ideas, but I felt the negatives out weighed the positives.