Heist stories are difficult to pull off effectively. We’re essentially rooting for the bad guys, even if the narrative frames them as the good guys. They just happen to be the lesser of two evils. It’s also not enough to have a goal and a team, there have to be enough twists and turns in the story for the payoff at the end. If everything goes according to plan, then what’s the point, but if nothing works out, then it’s a ticking clock until everybody either dies or gets arrested. We want the team to succeed, but we also need them to earn their reward. In order to do that, plans need to go awry, betrayals need to happen, and actions have to be taken so the audience can feel how high the stakes are for these people should they fail. In Ghosted #5 Joshua Williamson manages to get everything right about the climax of a heist story while upping the ante with the ultimate payoff.
With the Ghost Hunter/Adventure red shirts dead and the rest of the currently-living members of the team trapped in the Trask Mansion, Jackson confronts Anderson about her loyalty to their mutual employer, Markus, whom Anderson is intent on delivering the still possessed Trick to because Markus, long ago, saved her from the Eastern European slave trade. Why? Because she reminded him of his sister, though Jackson knows for a fact Anderson hardly resembles her. Desperate to get out, Anderson figures she can offer a new ghost to the house in exchange for Trick, stabbing Jackson in the back – the least subtle place one can stab another person. With Jackson bleeding out on the floor, King suggests Rusnak make contact with the spirits since it may be their only way out. Donning the spiritually amplified mask, Rusnak finally makes contact and reveals the true secret of the house. As it turns out, Markus is the sole living member of the Trask family, sacrificing his sister’s life so he could live forever on the condition that the mansion remain haunted. Capturing the ghost was the only way Markus’ curse could remain intact. While this hardly fazes Anderson, Jackson plays his trump card when Rusnak, the psychic, switches sides and helps Jackson implement his plan. To go any further is venturing into way too many spoilers, but it’s a good plan, one that would make Danny Ocean proud. Ya know, if he was involved in a heist involving haunted mansion, ghosts, and immortal murderers.
Williamson’s story really shines when it’s delving into Jackson’s methodology and psyche. He’s always the man with the plan, the guy capable of seeing the bigger picture, bringing the right group of people together to accomplish the task at hand. Being a good planner, however, doesn’t mean he remotely cares about the actual people he involves in his endeavors. The death of his team prior to the events of Ghosted, the botched job that left him the sole survivor of a horrific ordeal and got him sent to prison, forever changed his perspective, making him a man forever haunted by his own actions. In the aftermath, he now cares if the people on his team live or die, even Anderson, which is why he goes to great lengths to convince her to betray Markus. In a way, he was trying to give her an out even if he knew she probably wouldn’t budge. You could say his actions were noble, but I’ sure even Jackson would say he just needed to be sure where she stood before committing to his plan. I do love the very subtle way Williamson and Goran Sudzuka visually shift the power play between Jackson and Anderson. When Anderson stabs Jackson, his hair gets mussed up to reflect the scattered state of his plan and their situation. However, when Jackson turns the tables on Anderson, the panel shows him slicking his hair back, returning it to the sleek, debonaire style indicative of his Sinatra-like persona. It’s well done and perfectly captures the moment in any heist movie where the whole plan is revealed. The book may lack the space to backtrack, but the explanation given and the events that follow pack the right punch narratively and tonally. It helps that Sudzuka’s ghosts are creepy as all get out.
Final Thoughts: If the next arc is what I think it is, Jackson will never be able to rest in peace.