Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Goran Sudzuka
Colored by Miroslav Mrva
Lettered by Rus Wooten
Covers by Sean Phillips
Release Date: August 14, 2013
Cover Price: $2.99
In several pre-release interviews, Joshua Williamson described Ghosted, his six-issue miniseries for Image Comics/Skybound, as “Oceans’ 11 in a haunted house instead of a casino.” As intriguing as that idea sounds, the first two issues haven’t delivered much on that promise. Typical for the first issue in a new series or miniseries, issue #1 was all set-up, introducing the lead character, Jackson T. Winters, a convicted felon serving a ten-year stretch, who’s broken out of an unnamed prison by Marcus Schrecken, an elderly eccentric with very specific tastes and an ample bank account to satiate those tastes. Schrecken collects paranormal objects and wants Winters to capture and bring back a ghost from a haunted house, actually a mansion.
That mansion, once owned by the long-gone Trask family, wasn’t only the site for a few mysterious deaths, but the site of brutal, vicious murders by various members of the Trask family. They used their wealth and power to evade the legal implications of hunting and murdering whatever stray homeless people crossed their paths. Schrecken believes the mansion offers the best chance at capturing a ghost. Williamson sidesteps what, if anything, Schrecken plans on doing with the ghost, but as anyone familiar with haunted house stories, specifically influences like The Haunting, The House on Haunted Hill, and The Legend of Hell House (the first and third well-regarded novels before making the jump to the big screen to equally well-regarded adaptations), will guess, Schrecken’s (probably) up to no good.
While comic book readers can expect (and hope for) revelations about Schrecken’s intentions in later issues, for now, they’ll have to content themselves with the all-set-up, little payoff of the first and second issues, beginning with Winters accepting Schrecken’s offer (money, freedom), and the obligatory “getting the team” together scenes. Schrecken forces Winters to accept his right-hand woman, Anderson Lake. She’s more mercenary than loyal secretary, however. She’s the one who breaks Winters out of jail, taking out inconvenient guards and prisoners. In short, she’s willing to maim and kill to meet whatever objective Schrecken sets out for her. She’s also the closest Ghosted’s first and second issues come to a strong female character.
Ghosted‘s only other female character, Edzia Rusak, plays the key role of psychic and ghost whisperer on Winter’s team. The other members include Oliver Trick, described as a “professional skeptic,” Robbie Trick, the team’s con man, and Jay and Joe Burns, professional ghost hunters with their own reality TV show. Once Winters assembles the team, they go on a recon mission, spending the day, but not the night, in the Trask mansion. With the exception of Trick discovering a hidden door – because every haunted mansion includes hidden doors, hallways, and rooms – that suggests the mansion might contain more than just a few, lingering ghosts and a seemingly innocuous encounter with a representative of local law enforcement, little else happens before night arrives and the team departs. The final splash page suggests the team has something more to worry about than ghosts, but like practically everything else in issue #2, it’s just a tease.
Noted comic book artist Sean Phillips, best known for collaborating with Ed Brubaker on Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito, and Fatale, provides Ghosted with the covers. Phillips noir-inflected, ink-heavy style remains one of the most distinctive in comic books. Unfortunately, Goran Sudzuka‘s interior art can’t be described similarly. While Sudzuka’s pencils are never less than functional, they’re never distinctive. Even when Williamson gives Sudzuka a splash page or two-page spread, there’s little that will jump out at comic book readers. Add to that a slowly evolving story and it’s difficult not to conclude that Ghosted will be better appreciated when Image Comics collects the six-issue miniseries into a trade.