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Haunt #1 finally answers the question of what would happen if the Venom Symbiote from Spider-Man were to possess Patrick Swayze's character from the 1990 romantic comedy, Ghost at the exact moment he ejaculated: he would become a murderous crime fighter from beyond the grave with the power to kill people using what can only be described as Ecto-Semen. It's an old school Image comic everybody!
And...it's pretty good. If it has a flaw it's that it presents you with a dead vigilante who lives in his brother's body and shoots ghost cum at people but then somehow expects you to take it seriously. Very, very seriously. McFarlane's inks are apparently mixed from the blood of the Dark Lord Morgoth's molten black heart and are largely responsible for much of the terminally moody atmospherics. Fortunately, Greg Capullo's layouts keep the angst from leaking into other panels and halting the flow of the story. And, really, there's no point complaining about the inks because that's probably the principle reason you bought this comic (unless a Review Group forced you to). The first half of the story revolves around the traditional Confessional from the Church of Latter Day Clichés in which a character asks a clergyman to describe his motivation to the audience, provide any exposition that the character wouldn't feasibly reveal under other circumstances and exonerates the writer for his lack of imagination. This is an exceedingly grim comic but then, as a slightly knowing throwback to the early Image output, that's about right, really.
Image started out as a place for people disgruntled with the derivative, indulgent and creatively emaciated state of mainstream comics to make derivative, indulgent and creatively emaciated comics in a completely different building where they could wear their baseball hats sideways. Last week, I gave a brief overview of the mind of a pubescent teenager/manchild and the kind of comic books it produces, well early Image was basically the logical conclusion of that. It was the comic book medium's long overdue hormonal rebellion (delayed for decades by the infantile obsessions of the Big Two, thank you very much Dr. 'Your Penis Is Evil' Werthram) in which the teenager attempts to assert his independence by childishly copying the corporate mascots and spokespeople of international conglomerates. For most teenagers this means imitating the fashions of some prick like Bono or whatever the latest entry in the 'millionaires who tell people to give their money away' genre is these days. For comic book fans, that meant creating an X-Treme version of Superman whose approach to fighting crime involved using someone's lungs for boxing gloves.
They were artists with nothing to draw.
Since then, our late bloomer has developed into a fine upstanding young man who could teach the Big Two a thing about maturity. His acne has cleared up, his voice no longer quavers mid sentence and he has a string of successes under his wing, no few of which are written by Robert Kirkman. He no longer needs to take a Marvel or DC character and just add the word 'blood' or 'strike' to the title. And let's not forget that from the start the Image folks were a company with the simple and incalculably important desire to create their own and own their creations. Image needed to happen and I, for one, am glad it did. Haunt is a gentle and affectionate homage to the days of people drinking a mutilated criminal's stomach juice through his own spine and as such it's a pretty good demonstration of how far the company has come. All they really needed were a few good writers.
Imagine that you are Todd McFarlane and the thing that you are most famous for (mostly) is the creation of Spawn - a mercenary with questionable values that is killed after disobeying / upsetting his higher-ups goals and is brought back to the world of the living through mysterious and mystical means - and you want to make a comeback. Now what would you do?
If you answered “Make the protagonist white and add a costume that makes it look like Spider-Man was the submissive one in a gay porn.” then you and McFarlane are on the same page.
I dunno, this book has a lot of potential but for a first issue it did not do the job of making me care, and the reason is that it felt like I had already read the book when it was called Spawn. Since this is really late in the week, and no one is really gonna read this review the only other thing I am going to say is that once McFarlane gets bored with this project like all Image founders are want to do (except Larsen) and Kirkman is left to his own devices, I’ll take another look.
So the creative pairing on Haunt is certainly worthy of the hype and attention the book has gotten. Pairing arguably Image's premier creator from the 90's, Todd McFarlane, with Image's premier creator from the 00's, Robert Kirkman, probably creates a level of expectation that I'm not sure can be met. Unless of course you subscribe to the interweb group think that all things 90's are evil in which case you probably didn't buy this book anyway.
Traditionally, Robert Kirkman's comics take a few issues to get going and Haunt certainly seems to fall into that category. There's not a lot here in terms of storyline that hasn't been done before. The little bits that are there to shock, don't, and the character bits don't create much intrigue. There do seem to be little bits spread throughout the issue that are there to be expounded upon later so there is hope that somewhere down the road this issue will turn out to have been denser than it currently appears to be.
The process of Capullo on layouts, Ottley on pencils and McFarlane on inks is an intriguing one, but for my personal tastes I feel like my favorite artist of the three, Ryan Ottley, gets a bit buried in the final results. While the layouts are dynamic and the storytelling sound, the mix of Ottley and McFarlane has produced inconsistent results. As a whole Ottley's work feels lacking without a strong line on top of it and McFarlane's inks seem to lack the finer details that I remember from his past work. It's possible that as they continue to work together the art on the book will improve, but for this first issue the pairing seems to have detracted from both artists' strengths rather than enhancing their weaknesses. I'm not all that crazy about the character design for Haunt. It's not terribly memorable and it is easy to dismiss as a Venom derivative with an over abundance of ectoplasmic jizz.
I also wasn't in love with the coloring on the book. The action sequences looked great, but the rest of the book felt a bit too desaturated and the book looked a bit drab as a result. The lettering sound effects also felt a bit too photoshoppy and pasted in. I was shocked to see a Richard Starkings credit for the lettering.
Even though I'm scoring this issue low, I'm still curious enough that I'm not ruling out trying out the first trade. There's a ton of talent working on this book, eventually I have to believe that they can make something out of this even if I can't imagine what that may be.
Not all things in the '90s suck--all the crap made the good stuff stand out. Or made the mediocre stuff seem good, I'm not sure which. I wasn't buying comics for most of the '90s for a lot of other reasons than the quality issue. But having bought back large blocks of '90s comics, much of it is unreadable to me. And some of what's left just doesn't interest me. This book is a lot like some of those comics in the 2nd group--it's just not for me. I felt a déjà vu sneak upon me when reading this, as though I hadn't wanted to read it before now too--by that I mean to say it reminds me of another book that wasn't for me either, but sold a lot of comics, toys, and probably a movie I didn't see either.
I think I may have read a couple superhero books by Kirkman, but none of his popular indie books yet--there's a better chance I'll try one of those than buy future issues of Haunt. The art's been described as a mash-up by other folks--I'm not familiar with any of the artists here, except memories of MacFarlane's early Spidey work. At the time, I thought his compositions were dynamic and his lines were kinda sloppy but stylistically he really stood out then. Moreso than the artist-combo does with Haunt, especially with the rather dull color palette.
This book has potential. With Kirkman and Ottley attached to the project, two names who were involved in the creation of one of the best new characters in superhero comics, is it any surprise? I read through the first issue expecting something different and I got it. I found Daniel Kilgore interesting and liked Kurt Kilgore. And if Kirkman brings the same skill that I know he has, it will turn out to be a very good book.
My major problem with the book was the art. Although, I think Ottley is decent and Capullo is tolerable, McFarlane's horrendous design made the costume an eyesore. I honestly think this book would have been better if McFarlane had not been involved in this.
Despite that I believe I will pick up the rest of the first arc. It has me intrigued to see what happens to the brothers Kilgore.
I miss the deadline again!
It's okay, barring some calamity *knock on wood* I should finally get back to writing this week.
Pull list: Afterlife with Archie, Bodies, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Coffin Hill, Dead Boy Detectives, The Fade Out, The Goon, Harley Quinn, Hinterkind, Iron Fist: The Living Weapon,The Maxx Maximized, Miracleman, Ms. Marvel, Multiversity, Rasputin, Rocket Raccoon, Sandman: Overture, Silver Surfer, The Walking Dead, Wonder Woman