Indie Comics Spotlight: Five Ghosts, Non-Humans, Ugli Studios Presents
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1
Who’s got two thumbs, international renown and is possessed by five ghosts? That guy, Fabian Gray. His adventures are detailed in a brand new series called Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1, soon to be released by Image Comics. The issue is written by Frank J. Barbiere, illustrated by Chris Mooneyham and colored by S.M. Vidaurri. “I’m not a thief,” insists Fabian Gray, “I’m a treasure hunter.” Both occupations are made that much easier by the fact that Fabian is possessed by spirits of a detective, vampire, samurai, wizard and archer. All spirits tend to show up when needed, giving Fabian the edge he needs to break into just about any place and take what he wants. What he really wants is an arcane object that might bring his sister out of a comatose state. First things first. Barbiere is onto something here. The concept of five ghosts inhabiting the same body and giving that person the ability to draw upon them is awesome. It makes the story hum along and makes Fabian Gray something of a Swiss army knife of treasure hunters. It’s really inventive and makes for a fantastic read. Second, the entire book has that pulpy feel to it. Fabian is a treasure hunter of a bygone era who traverses the globe in style. Fabian Gray has just enough of a cocky sensibility to him that his adventures are worth following, while at the same time he’s constantly being threatened by losing control of the possession. That era includes castles, bi-planes and natives, all of which make the story fun. It moves at an incredibly fast clip, giving the reader barely any time to stop and catch up, but for a book like this it really works. Mooneyham’s art is phenomenal. It really captures the essence of the tale and keeps it in the pulpy atmosphere. There are some especially cool panels with the ghosts, where they’re in the background of Fabian’s panels, mimicking his action to the intended effect. The characters are extremely well-defined and the action is easy to follow, with beautifully rendered illustrations, accompanied by darker tones and hues. Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1 is the start of something fun and relatively nonchalant. There’s a villain introduced towards the end of the book who looks to be nefarious and all signs point to the book only getting wilder as it progresses. If you like your comics fresh, full of pulp and rife with globetrotting adventures, this is the book you need to read. Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1 is available March 20.
When that teddy bear in your room starts talking and making a move, he’s either Ted, the lovable (but crass) bear of the same name from the recent movie, or he’s a non-human, a new biological entity in the comic of the same name. Image Comics has released the second issue of Non-Humans and man do things really get out of hand. The issue is written by Glen Brunswick, illustrated by Whilce Portacio, lettered by Rus Wooten and colored by Brian Valeza. The issue opens with Detective Aimes catching up with the ventriloquist puppet, who’s not really good at throwing voices, but excels at throwing live ammunition the way of his recently murdered partner. On top of that, he’s still working to get along with Eden, a burgeoning relationship that really accelerates after a visit to the home of retired actress Molly Wentworth. Their camaraderie will be necessary if they want to contend with the freshly revealed villain. The concept of inanimate objects usually comes with a tinge of existentialism and Non-Humans #2 is no exception. Brunswick continues to infuse the story with the concept that previously inanimate objects are coming to terms with their newfound existence. Of course, this has led to battle lines being drawn, with some supporting the non-humans and those who don’t. There’s a bunch of reasons why you would side for or against the non-humans, all of which are valid to an extent. Brunswick humanizes Aimes a bit in this issue, explaining his fear of King Kong being tied to a monkey coming to life as a child. That monkey was born of his own rage, making him a character that has every reason to hate non-humans, yet tolerates them to an extent. Portacio’s art is strong. Emotions pour from the characters’ faces, both humans and non-humans. It helps reinforce the dystopia that Los Angeles has become, with non-humans fighting to become more than just a novelty. Wentworth looks sufficiently evil and a lot of the fight scenes are intense, replete with explosions, wounds and blood. The burgeoning war between humans and non-humans takes a step forward in the second issue. Non-humans aren’t content with being relegated to the shadows and regulated, while Aimes and Eden might actually start getting along. They’ll likely go up against a wounded army of non-humans, which should make for some exciting reading. Non-Humans #2 is in stores now.
Ugli Studios Presents #1
Up and coming publishers rely on clever storytelling to get you hooked. That could be creative stories, crazy characters or story twists that make the endings less than conventional. It’s the latter that Ugli Studios Presents #1 relies on for its storytelling components. The first story is called “Through the Eyes of Grizelda,” and is written by Jason Lenox and David Paul, illustrated by Lenox, colored by Dani Kaulakis and lettered by Paul. The second story is called “The Great Vermin” and features the same creative team. “Through the Eyes of Grizelda,” and it’s got an Army of Darkness feel to it, with a great warrior fighting an evil sorcerer. The story takes place during an epic back and forth battle, culminating in quite a surprising twist. The second story is called “The Great Vermin” and is something out of The Twilight Zone, where aliens and humans can’t necessarily get along. Both stories rely on pulling the reader in one direction throughout and then jerking them abruptly in another direction at the end. The first story does this much more successfully than the second one. “Through the Eyes of Grizelda” is actually fairly strong–definitely the stronger of the two. It blends a warrior-like narration with an undead army fighting relentlessly. The strength in it lies in the entire misdirect that pays off pretty handsomely at the end in a very clever way. On the other hand, the ending of “The Great Vermin” is a little disappointing. It feels as if it has grander ambitions then it manages to achieve and falls a little short. It’s a lot less demanding on the reader than the first story and the payoff isn’t as rewarding. It feels a little cliché. Lenox also handles the art duties and, again, it’s the first story where his work shows better. The undead army and warrior are illustrated with a dark grittiness, but not much in the way of detail. The second story is mostly characters in baggy spacesuits and doesn’t really allow much of the art to shine through. The team behind Ugli Studios Presents #1 have grand ambitions, but the issue falls a little short. The first story does show promise and could be good with a bit more polish, but the second story is a bit less entertaining. Here’s hoping the second issue could be a lot more coherent and feature stronger storylines. Ugli Studios Presents #1 is available now.