Writer: Joe Casey
Artist/Cover artist: Nathan Fox
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Editor: Jen Cassidy
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US
When Todd McFarlane and Image Comics released their original teaser/promotional image for this property, I was unimpressed with how uninspired the character design was, with how it basically combined the looks of the two characters with which McFarlane is most closely associated: Spider-Man and Spawn. When the first issue was released a little more than two years, I remained unimpressed, even though Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman was the writer and co-creator of the series. That was the last I looked at Haunt, and I never expected I’d give it a second look or thought. And then, with Kirkman and artist Greg Capullo’s withdrawal from the book, the new creative team was announced, and I was immediately intrigued. Artist Nathan (DMZ) Fox boasts an unconventional, indie-flavored style that couldn’t be more of a departure from what we’ve seen from other McFarlane creations, and Joe Casey, while no stranger to mainstream super-hero comics, also has a reputation for offbeat, even challenging fare. I couldn’t resist checking out such a dramatic shift in creative direction.
Now if I could just figure out what the hell’s going on…
Danny Kilgore is discovering a life of being haunted by his brother Kurt, a one-time black-ops soldier supreme, has a lot of drawbacks, not the least of which are Kurt’s spirit’s constant chatter and his unfortunate presence during Danny’s intimate moments with a girlfriend. The brothers, who can merge to form a superhuman form with untold power, discover some allies have disappeared, cleared out of their base of operations leaving no trace of their former presence, and it bodes ill for what lies ahead. Meanwhile, the cult of the Second Church is out for revenge for one of its fallen brothers, and unfortunately for our hero, it’s more of an eye-for-an-eye kind of faith.
After reading this issue, I wondered if I’d missed the actual debut of this creative team, thinking perhaps this was Casey and Fox’s second issue. A few seconds of investigation online told me otherwise, that this is their first issue. It certainly doesn’t read like it, though. The script is almost devoid of exposition. There’s no hint as to how the brothers Kilgore ended up linked as they are. There’s no explanation about their powers. There’s no explanation as to why the nebulous cult that apparently serves as this new storyline’s antagonist is ticked off at the title hero (if, in fact, he’s the one the zealots have a beef with). There’s no even any kind of “Previously in Haunt…” blurb on the inside front cover. Some background — any background — would’ve been a big help for those of us just joining the series to see what Casey and Fox have to offer. And there are bound to be a number of readers such as myself picking up this issue for that express purpose.
Exacerbating the inaccessibility of the script is the sometimes-indiscernible quality of Fox’s artwork. It’s always attractive, but some of what’s happening is difficult to make out in key scenes. That’s the tone that’s set with the opening vignette, set in the “near future.” I have no idea what the creature at the centre of the scene looks like or what’s happening to it in that final panel. It’s undeniably creepy, and its grey, organic look is pretty cool. I can’t help but wonder if the brightness of the colors, mixed with Fox’s thick linework and the murky quality of the various characters and story elements, led to the… blurriness of the visuals. That being said, I do appreciate the overlook style for this new take on Haunt. Fox’s work here, reminiscent of the style of Paul Pope, is atypical of most super-hero genre work, and the change of pace is something I enjoyed despite the issues I had with its clarity here.
There were elements in Casey’s plot I enjoyed as well. Danny’s frustration at never being alone, especially in the circumstances that play out later in the issue, is something to which anyone relate, allowing the reader to connect with the character in spite of the impossible premise. I found the issue’s climax to be almost ridiculously violent, but since Danny’s reaction was pretty much the same, it provides the proper context and made it easier to accept — even to appreciate as part of the story. 5/10
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