Five is the magic number this week as we look at two Image
Five Ghosts (ongoing)
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Publisher: Image Comics
AFTER an encounter with an artefact known as the Dreamstone, infamous treasure hunter Fabian Gray was possessed by five literary ghosts – The Archer, The Detective, The Samurai, The Wizard, and The Vampire – and can now use their unique abilities to help him out of tight spots.
Part Indiana Jones, part James Bond, with some Dracula, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Merlin and Miyamoto Musashi thrown into the mix, Fabian Gray is like a mish-mash of literary influences. Unlike, say, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or Bill Willingham’s Fables, writer Barbiere embraces the pulp fiction aspects of these influences, with Mooneyham’s moody artwork giving it a gothic, almost noir feel.
Comprising issues #1-#5 and collected as Volume 1: The Haunting Of Fabian Gray, the first story arc has Fabian struggling to bring the five ghosts under control – conveniently done by confronting the ghosts through some hokey underwater ritual, and passing some “tests” to prove he is worthy to wield their powers.
Since it’s not really explained how he accesses those powers, it does feel a bit convenient at times.
All we’re shown is a spectre of the ghost whose powers he is accessing, and voila!
He can cast magic spells like Merlin, sprout fangs like Dracula, or, er, throw apples like Robin Hood.
Is there a weakness to these powers? Is there a limit to how long he can use them? Is there a sequence in which he can summon them?
If the Merlin ghost is so powerful, why doesn’t he just use magic to solve his problems all the time?
All these questions, and more, are not exactly answered in the first story arc, though I suspect that the answers will be revealed in the later issues, as Fabian learns more about the Dreamstone and its role in the overall series plot.
Despite the intriguing premise and the almost retro atmosphere of the book, you get the feeling that Five Ghosts still has a few kinks that need ironing out, among them making its central character a bit more likeable, and explaining the mechanics of his powers.
Five Weapons (ongoing)
Writer/artist: Jimmie Robinson
Publisher: Image Comics
COMPARED to Five Ghosts, Five Weapons is a much more light-hearted, amusing read.
Robinson’s manga-like artwork is a pleasure, while the writing is breezy and fun.
Thirteen-year-old Tyler Shanline, who comes from a legendary family of assassins, enrols in the School of Five Weapons, a school for young assassins where students learn to fight and kill with one of five weapons skills – knives, guns, staves, archery and exotic weapons.
However, Tyler happens to be a pacifist who doesn’t believe in using weapons, so he has to learn to survive in a school where everyone might want to kill him.
And to top it all off, he also has a deadly secret that could get him killed if it ever got out.
Initially what was meant to be a five-issue miniseries, this well-received title was upgraded to an ongoing comic recently.
Available in a collected volume entitled Volume 1: Making The Grade, the first story arc is pretty much self-contained, focusing on Tyler’s encounters with the various members of the school’s weapons clubs.
The fun here is seeing how he handles each different weapon in his own unique, weapon-free ways, even as there is a larger mystery and plot going on in the background involving the school’s sinister principal and the Shanline family.
Part high school drama and part mystery, the first story arc sets up an intriguing setting for the series as a whole.
Robinson closes it up so neatly that you initially wonder how he could ever continue with the storyline.
Happily, the continuation of the series is not as awkward as I initially thought it would be.
Robinson has said that although he had to make some changes to the initial story when he was told it would be upgraded to an ongoing series, he has kept the basic premise of a pacifist in an assassin’s school intact.
But he has also done a lot more than that.
Now, to relate what happens from #6 onwards would be to spoil the initial story for you, but suffice to say, Robinson has found a way to expand on the world of Five Weapons, and set up an intriguing premise that should keep the series going for a while.
Collected editions of Five Ghosts and Five Weapons are available at the graphic novel section of Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC. Call 03-2164 8133 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.kinokuniya.com/my.