Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Haunt #1 – A Review

Haunt #1

Publisher Image

Writer & Co-Creator Robert Kirkman

Layouts Grag Capullo

Pencils Ryan Ottley

Inks & Co-Creator Todd McFarlane

Colors FCO Plascenca

Price $3 24 Pages of Story and Art

So today has been hectic as all get out and it has taken me a lot longer to trying to get around and post a review of a book from today. Last week nothing got me that worked up that I read on Wednesday to make me want to do a review and this week the first book I have read does have me geared up enough to writer a review of the book, but…… first let’s talk about what this book is and what it seems to represent. It is Image first huge success in years and represents a seeming commitment on Kirkman’s part to make some of the original members of Image relevant again.

I was all set to just dive into the book, then I read Kirkman’s after word and I could not help myself but to fall over almost laughing over how much of a Todd McFarlane kiss ass Kirkman came off as in the back of the book. Now he wasn’t going to throw his co-creator and inker under the bus, but the column almost came off like he was defending McFarlane. I do not know McFarlane and can only have my opinion from afar. I think he was a decent enough artist who’s highly fluid and distinctive style struck a chord with audiences. He was able to parlay that into being a founder of Image comics and struck gold with his creation of Spawn. He has made some of the coolest action figures around and has been in the center of a bunch of controversies. The man has been able to do want he wants. I have no clue if he is a jerk, an artistic genius or a lucky bastard. What I do know is that outside of Spawn, McFarlane has not had a single idea or character that has sparked any interest. So when compared to the Kirby, Ditko, Gardner Fox, Joe Kubert, Stan Lee and others his actual creative output is just Spawn. In some ways I see McFarlane as the poor little rich boy. The community seems to relish in his failures and his successes are well behind him.

In his after word Kirkman all but professed his man-love for Todd. Quotes from the column are “Todd has been a driving force in making this book happen. It’s been a thrill working with him..”, “His (Todd) finishes on the pencils brings a new visual flavor”. He talks about how hands on Todd is and compares Todd to himself in how exacting and interested he is in every last detail. It’s like he is defending Todd before he is being attacked. Maybe it was just me, but between his soliloquy on Todd and his re-justification that he is only doing creator work, the whole column made me feel like these guys are hurting their arms from patting themselves on the back. Don’t get me wrong the initial orders are reported to be 60,000, which is a huge number, especially since it has been years and years since Image has generated that type of excitement, but let’s see what issue #10 is selling and let others sing your praises. I would have preferred a column about how this came together, why the unique art team, can Ryan Ottley produce this and Invincible, and other insider stuff. The glowing praise of your cohorts is normal, but this was over the top towards Todd and too self congratulatory.

Whew- onto the actual comic.

Spider-Man #1 was an, oops, the cover threw me; Haunt #1 was an okay book. It did not Wow me, it did not make me retch across the book and into my ottoman full of comics either. We have two brothers and are quickly introduced to each one. Daniel is the fornicating Catholic priest. Now having a priest who pays for a prostitute is better then the sadder side of what some priests did, but it still bespeaks an underlying disdain for the Catholic Church which is definitively shared by Ennis. Personally it does not faze me either way, but I always thought the celibacy thing was dumb and I believe was an economic sanction passed by the church in the Middle Ages. We meet Kurt right after as he is going to church to and meets his brother for confession. Here we learn of Kurt’s fast paced and high powered espionage life. Kurt is this agent who is sent to find some doctor and Kurt kills him when he found out he was experimenting on humans. The book the doctor is carrying is stolen by someone else that Kurt missed as he frees the humans being experimented on. After his confession Kurt is captured and killed. Then he shows up as a ghost to his brother Daniel. He convinces Daniel to protect his wife, when the killers show up there he jumps into Daniel’s body in a reflex action to get him to duck and is instantly turned into Spider-Man black and white or I guess Haunt will do. He has amazing agility, Sabertooth hands and an incomplete mask. Haunt immediately decapitates the two bad guys. So endeth issue one.

The decent part of the book is the two brothers being so diametrically different. I wanted to know more how these guys get to their lives being so radically different. How does a person having a calling for the priesthood and then become a cynical cigarette smoking whore monger (was he a auto claim representative first?). How does Kurt who apparently has been in the spy game for a while and must have done many morally ambiguous things all of a sudden get conscious about what he saw this mission, but yet still be enough of a killer to take out the doctor. So the characters are intriguing, but I guess they felt they had to move the plot along at light speed or else we would never get to see Haunt.

Haunt itself is pretty lame and feels extremely derivative. I’m not sure why he is spewing out ectoplasm (I hope) on the cover, or why this merger created a costume and an incomplete one at that as the bottom of his jaw has no mask. I’m sure we have plenty of questions to be answered in the future, but first impression of Haunt was not one of sparkling originality. Even in Kirkaman’s column he states that Todd has made the book …look amazing, a clear reference to Spider-Man.

The overall design and art of the book is good. The Capullo/Ottley/McFarlane mix is actually a little odd as each of their styles comes through at times and they are not a seamless team yet. If these three stay together I envision the art becoming more of a unified whole over time and getting better.

Pacing is the hardest thing in comics to me. I can read six comics and think one is too slow, one is too fast, one is too jumpy, one missed the boat and maybe one – just one will get the Goldilocks endorsement of being just right. This book was too fast. It crammed in a ton of story and moved at a fast paced and it did not work. At the end of the book I hardly knew these brothers and had no idea of their motivations. Kurt’s wife was a complete cipher. I know we will fill in the blanks going forward and I’m onboard for issue #2, but it was a touch and go thing. It was too much McFarlane and not enough Kirkman. For some reason I don’t expect McFarlane to be on this book for any length of time.

Overall Grade C – A fast paced derivative thrill ride that was just a little too vapid.


  1. Other than the cover, I'm not seeing anything in this to remind me of Spider-Man. The interior art is nothing like McFarlane's style and Haunt neither looks like nor has powers, so far as we know them, anything like Spider-Man, unless I missed something and Spider-Man can now take a bullet and has claws sharp enough to decapitate someone with just one hand.

    I don't know what your problem is with the mask. You have something against Batman showing his jaw, too?

    As far as the story, I think you're missing a lot of the foreshadowing Kirkman put in place. Sure, Daniel has just paid his regular hooker for sex, but why? He's disillusioned by taking his brother's confessions over the years, but why? He's jaded, but that makes him more like his brother, Kurt, who's also jaded by his espionage and wet work. The question isn't how different the brothers are but how alike.

    Then there's Kurt's wife, who Daniel hates for an unstated reason. There's a deep personal relationship there that's foreshadowed and has my interest. The long minutes of silence when Daniel goes to see her at the dead Kurt's behest indicates a lot more to the relationship and his developed in a mere 2 pages.

    Knowing Kirkman's writing in Invincible, The Walking Dead and The Astounding Wolf-man, I'm sure he has a lot in store for what's been hinted in this one issue. Let's not forget that we don't know who Kurt was working for, who took the notebook of the dead scientist (and was obviously tailing Kurt on his mission), or who killed Kurt. Kirkman has laid a lot of groundwork.

    As far as the interior art, Ottley and Placencia have been working together for some time on Invincible, but have pulled together a very different feel on this book. Whether that's due to McFarlane's inks, as Kirkman believes, or an effort on Ottley and Placencia's part to go in a different direction, or a combination of both, I don't know. It works for this type of story, though.

    I think you're reading a lot into Kirkman's afterward. He's just saying that he enjoyed working with McFarlane and didn't know the man at all prior to this project. He's also saying the creator owned career path is working out for him, not just with Haunt but with all the work he's doing with Image. I don't see where it's too early to pat himself on the back for that library of work. He's really addressing those who said it couldn't work when he stopped working for Marvel.

    Finally, my recollection of why the Catholic Church imposed celibacy on its priests was that there had become a dynastic tendency of some less than forthright Popes. Even after celibacy, there was some problem with that in Medieval Italy. The Church wanted its Popes selected on consensus merit rather than lineage.

    And that's that.

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