“New” Pulp Conjures Familiar Feelings

Graphic novel (re: comic book) fans seeking something other than standard superhero fare need look no further than two new titles from publisher Image Comics.

Five Ghosts from writer Frank Barbiere  and artist Chris Mooneyham details the exploits of explorer, thief, and bon vivant Fabian Gray. Set in the 1930s, Gray inhabits a world much like the one Indiana Jones made famous, but tinged with even more supernatural power. Gray himself is a haunted man. Cursed by the presence of the fabled Dream Stones embedded in his chest, he possesses the ability to call upon the powers of five “literary” ghosts. This quintet includes the archer (Robin Hood), the swordsman (Musashi), the detective (Sherlock Holmes), the vampire (Count Dracula), and the wizard (Merlin).

Gray and his cohorts face off against threats both magical and mundane, from possessed tribesmen to murderous pirates, and of course, Nazis–I hate those guys!   Mr. Barbiere weaves plenty of cool literary references into the stories, and Mr. Mooneyham’s moody, gorgeous artwork looks like a cross between Mike Mignola and Howard Chaykin.

Start by reading Five Ghosts: The Haunting Of Fabian Gray (that’s volume one); then read Five Ghosts: Lost Coastlines (that’s volume two).

If Five Ghosts inhabits the realms of Indiana Jones and King Solomon’s Mines, Black Science takes its lead from the sort of retro-raygun sci-fi seen in Flash Gordon and DC Comics Adam Strange. Don’t think that these more innocent antecedents make Black Science light or frivolous. Writer Rick Remender and artists Mateo Scalera and Dean White inject plenty of darkness into Black Science. Lead character and rogue scientist Grant McKay uses proscribed experiments to punch his way into a forbidden dimension of madness and chaos.

He and his intrepid crew encounter a host of horrors as they journey through worlds undreamed in search of a way home.

As I have grown more and more disenchanted with modern superhero fare, I take comfort in titles like these. They have a spirit and sense of fun that “modern” Marvel comics lack. If you dig pulp, check these titles out!

–Scott P.

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