Haunt #1 Review

Haunt #1 CoverRightly so, there are big expectations for this new ongoing series from Image. Writer Robert Kirkman has become an indie darling with the success of his Walking Dead and Invincible series. One is a dramatic zombie epic, and the other is a bloody superhero epic, but they both show Kirkman’s skills at generating interest in unique characters in a new comic series, and that is something extremely hard to do in today’s funnybook climate.

His co-creator on Haunt, and inspired by Kirkman’s gauntlet throwing to get him back in the biz, is Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. McFarlane hasn’t been a regular writer or artist for years, and although he’s not the penciller on this series, it still smells of McFarlane’s influence. And that’s a pleasant odour.

Living up to the hype, the first 3 pages are a treat. A woman, a man, a cigarette moving to reveal the “holy” job of the man – it’s all a subtle set up that hooks you immediately. The priest, Daniel is then party to a confession by Kurt, his military brother, which is revealed to us via flashback. The next few pages are like something from a Tarantino film with a Bruckehimer budget, and it’s all good. Kurt climbs out of a body bag, “rescues” a scientist and a few of his test subjects and the shooting begins. It’s all rather bold and boisterous, but very enjoyable.

Then as Kurt leaves the church he’s kidnapped, tortured for the whereabouts of the scientist’s notebook and killed (off-panel). Daniel begrudgingly visits Amanda, Kurt’s widow and Kurt shows up, obviously causing Daniel to ask himself if he’s crazy, as it appears no-one else can see him.

The bad guys chasing the notebook appear, ready for more brutal intimidation, and just when you think that the loose Spider-Man/Spawn hybrid character on the cover won’t show up, he does, in a rather surprising fashion.

Capullo’s layouts combined with Ryan Ottley’s (Invincible) pencils and McFarlane’s inks make for a true visual feast. At first I was hesitant to give this series a chance as it seemed like a dull nod to the very early days of Image, when dark heroes with brutal methods were a dime a dozen, but these gentlemen combine to form a dynamic creative team. It’s never over the top just for the sake of it and Kirkman’s script whisks us away every few pages to a new scene and characters without ever muddying the waters of simple storytelling.

Of course, it all looks great, but it doesn’t cast that generic, cross-hatched look I was expecting. Too many cooks don’t spoil the broth in this case. Ottley, Capullo and McFarlane make every page detailed, visually interesting and unique. People look like people. There’s no over-exaggerated musculature and the sole woman who appears in full, looks normal. The action scenes in the secret bunker are laid out with just as much flair as the dialogue scenes in the church, limo and lounge room.

Kirkman manages to ditch any lengthy exposition and just focus on a character driven action yarn with much bravado. It makes for a seamless and intriguing narrative. Consider me hooked.

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