Writer: Robert Kirkman
Layouts: Greg Capullo
Pencils: Ryan Ottley
Inks: Todd McFarlane
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Cover artists: Todd McFarlane/Greg Capullo/Ryan Ottley
Editors: Jen Cassidy & Tyler Jeffers
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3 CAN
I’d originally decided some time ago that when Haunt was finally released, I’d pass on it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my interest in Robert Kirkman’s and Ryan Ottley’s storytelling outweighed my disinterest in Todd McFarlane’s and Greg Capullo’s artwork and my disappointment in the uninspired nature of the title character’s design. I should’ve stuck with my original instinct. Haunt maybe a super-hero title, but it’s devoid of any sense of fun, even morbid, dark fun. It’s full of nasty characters — gratuitously nasty ones, to be honest. The plot and players are dark for the sake of being dark. The creators aren’t selling the audience a story. The creators themselves are the product, and a compelling read was clearly low on the list of priorities. The contributors clearly set out to create something intense and Kewl, and they succeeded, but only when it comes to those purely superficial goals.
Daniel Kilgore is an angry, bitter man, and that’s a bad state of mind for a man in his line of work. The Catholic priest finds his brother Kurt waiting for him at his church once again, and as he’s done so many times before, he takes confession from his hated sibling. Every time, Daniel hears of murder, secret missions and overabundant munitions, but he’s determined to spare his fellow clergymen from hearing the gory details. When Kurt is murdered, Daniel’s anger and bitterness continue, and he imagines his super-soldier brother nagging him even from beyond the grave. Little does Daniel know that his brothers’ killers are still out there hunting, and his brother’s ghost isn’t the figment of his imagination he thought it was.
Capullo on layouts. Ottley on pencils. And McFarlane on inks. This mish-mash of artists leads to inconsistent visuals across the board, as their styles do battle with one another rather than blend to form a pleasing amalgam. The exuberance one normally finds in Ottley’s linework is lost in McFarlane’s overdone inking. The characters never seem to look the same way twice. The Kurt we see on page three, for example, looks like a different man from the Kurt in the center of page four. While the supernatural transformation that occurs in the latter pages of this issue is done pretty well, the character design itself is a real letdown. The goofy @-like chest symbol runs completely contrary to the dark tone of the character and the plot as well, and the illustrations of the victims of the mad scientist’s experiments early in the book are so exaggerated and cartoony in appearance that it’s difficult to see them as poor innocent souls.
So it turns out the core premise of this particular super-hero is the Spectre-meets-Firestorm. There’s potential in the concept, but the creators approach it without any sense of nuance. The conflict between the brothers could have been interesting, but Kirkman takes a ham-fisted approach. Instead of giving us a familial conflict to which we could relate, he offers us such an extreme that it loses touch with any kind of human reality.
I’m not sure if I would have liked the premise or the action in this issue at all, no matter what I found. The reason: the creators lost me with the third panel on the second page. The image of a bitter priest emerging from a prostitute’s home/place of business put me off right away, and there’s really no need for it. Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense in the context of what we know of Daniel. He looks upon his brother’s evil deeds with such disdain that the hypocrisy leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. Yes, I get that Daniel is damaged goods, that he’s suffering from a self-hatred as well as anger for those around him. But it’s just so over the top so as to defy credibility.
If this comic book had been one I received in the mail from a couple of amateur comics creators who self-published it, the loud, exaggerated storytelling would be much easier to take. The plotting is generic and formulaic, and it comes off as something fans of the early 1990s Image era of comics would come up with to pass the time. I still wouldn’t like it if this was an amateur effort, but I’d still respect the raw enthusiasm that no doubt would’ve been behind it. But this is the product of seasoned professionals from the world of mainstream genre comics. The early days of Spawn, while far from a pinnacle of comics storytelling, at least exhibited a vision, a sense of direction and a supernatural conflict that at its core was emotional and down to earth. It was originally a story of Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl and Boy Is Willing to Do Anything to Get Girl Back. Haunt makes Spawn seem like a masterwork of the medium by comparison. 2/10
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