The mythology of Five Ghosts has gotten large and expansive, but following natural developments to the series itself. It's what I would call a "sticky" series too, meaning it can easily reach out and encompass even more literary genres and concept without it being too much a stretch due to its framework following the mulitply-possessed treasure hunter (and sometimes rogue thief) Fabian Gray. The Special that came out this week was something I was very interested in having a look at and I was, put simply, quite charmed by it.
When a mythology gets big enough, elastic enough, and let's face it, well-liked enough to start getting playful, weird, and fun, that's a golden moment for any property. Not only has Five Ghosts reached that point, but the Special that celebrates these qualities is a great success.
The first story of two in the issue, "The Demon and the Dreamstone" is written and drawn by S. M. Vidaurri, and is so visually stunning that it immediately gives us a different sense of the whole world of Five Ghosts, stretching into the distant past. We're reminded this is not just a world of the pulps, but a world of mythology, folklore, magic, and all of the things that were full of wonder for the audiences of past time periods. Here Vidaurri follows the story of a Demon being who possesses a Dreamstone, pursuing a group of brave warriors in 8th century England outside Lindisfarne (which was famously destroyed by Vikings in real life).
Vidaurri's painted colors, almost replacing linework at times, are so rich and fluid, that the smoke-like essence of the Demon itself is even beautiful and striking. But I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the artist's elaborate backdrops, as detailed as artists usually make endpapers on hardbound books, on many pages, and Vidaurri's use of incremental panels with symbols and objects to offset action. This would be a visual revelation to the world of Five Ghosts just as it stands in these qualities, but actually, the story takes the opportunity to develop an actual aspect of Dreamstone origin and affect. Not only do we learn that the myths say the stones have been sent to "test" human beings, but we also see what happens when a Demon, who has only "nightmares" and not dreams, becomes possessed by it. Their transformations are pretty spooky and definitely alarming. Our Demon here moves through the skull incarnations of different animals on their armor-clad body (and the actual "human" origin of this demon is discussed too, but I'll leave that for you to discover).
The second story contained within this 32 page special is written by Five Ghosts co-creator Frank Barbiere and drawn by Jamie Jones with colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick. "Boats Against the Current" takes a very humorous, whimsical approach in content and in art style, and yet it's right at home in the world of Five Ghosts. I, for one, was delighted by seeing yet another direction for the Fabian Gray through varied approaches. The more cartoony, exaggerated expressions and poses for Fabian and his foes remind us that he hails from the tradition of Trickster Thief, and that role has always included rebelliousness, self-deprecating humor, and fairly relentless wit. And like "The Demon and the Dreamstone", this story also advances an area of Five Ghosts mythology, not least because it points out that information, too, can be a treasure worth seeking at great cost.
So, the long and the short of it is, let's have more Five Ghosts Specials, please. Not that we don't love Five Ghosts and its continuing ability to transform, entertain, and link so many literary and mythological traditions across cultures. But to open the world up to short stories and varied art styles too is just like icing on the cake and proves that Five Ghosts has come of age as an established universe with its own continuity and substance firmly delineated enough to be explored by curious guest writers and artists as well as readers.