Todd McFarlane returns to comics next week with Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Greg Capullo and Haunt! The Outhouse has the review for you!
Written by Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman
Artwork by Ryan Ottley and Greg Capullo
It's easy to forget that Todd McFarlane used to write and draw comics. These days he's more famous for his Action Figures and various legal entanglements, when what we should be thinking of is his great work on Spider-Man, and his creation of Spawn, who was in his day, pretty fucking cool. But now Todd is back, and he's made the wise decision of teaming with the newest Image partner and superstar Robert Kirkman, to tell a tale of brotherly love, spies and weird ectoplasmic goop.
The first issue of Haunt opens in a typically entertaining 90s Image way, our main character Daniel Kilgore is leaving after schtupping a prostitute. So far, so gratuitous, but then we see he's actually a Priest, which puts a whole new edge on things, and is a pretty brave thing to do, make your superhero a) a man of the cloth, and then b) make him a pretty unlikable guy. On top of paying for sex, Daniel smokes, and is a dick to his brother, who he meets in a confessional. Daniel may be a bit unlikable, but he is a compelling character so far all the same, Kirkman is great at writing interesting bastards, Eric O'Grady, Cecil Stedman and The Governor are just three examples. Daniel is a Priest, but he doesn't seem to want to be, why is that? Perhaps his Confessional with his brother will illuminate things. In my eyes, Confessional scenes are a bit played out in comics, a recent issue of Punisher had one, Ghost Rider recently too, and god knows how many there have been in Daredevil, but what sets this one apart is that our POV character is actually the Priest, and he's not an understanding patient guy, he's Daniel Kilgore.
Oh yeah, the Confessional is also set apart by what it actually says, you see, Daniel's brother isn't just a guy, he's a spy, a super-spy, a bad-ass Nick Fury super-spy. Much of the issue is a flashback showing his latest mission, where he kicks ass and takes names. The action in these scenes is brilliantly kinetic, it moves fast and leaps off the page. We know that Kirkman and Ottley are capable of unleashing hardcore violence from Invincible, but this is in a more realistic context, and it really works well. Throughout the issue Greg Capullo's inks add a scratchier, darker tone to Ottley's pencils, this isn't the bright world of Invincible, this is Haunt. Capullo's work adds an extra edge to Ottley's already stellar stuff, such as the nauseating tumours on human guinea pigs, which evoked a visceral 'ewwww' from me.
This issue is mainly set-up for the future, and rather than get straight to the action, Kirkman sets up the characters first, we know that Daniel and Kurt have a bad relationship, and we want to know why. Especially since Kurt is killed halfway through the issue. Kirkman has always been one for setting up long-burning subplots, and you can see that in evidence here, Kurt's spy world has many tantalizing hooks, the mysterious notebook, a female spy, Kirkman has played with Espionage a little bit in Invincible, but here he can unleash his inner Ian Fleming, it looks like he has a lot of room to play with here.
Once Kurt is dead, Daniel does not fall to his knees and swear vengeance, he's just the same, he's seeing his brother's ghost, thinks he's cracking up and has some pretty revealing arguments with it. We learn there's a past with Kurt's wife, and issues with their mother. But of course, he's not cracking up, it's not Kurt's ghost, it's real, and when 2 heavies break in to try and kill Daniel... he (or he and Kurt) turns into Haunt. The transition scene from Daniel to Haunt is really great, we see him basically puke the costume out his mouth, and then entangle itself around him. It's different from a Phone-booth that's for sure, and it's Ottley and Capullo's best work in the issue. It's immediately arresting.
This issue is not perfect, there are a few scene transitions that don't really work, there's a line about cutting off a Penis that is just a bit too 90s image for me, a bit too 'trying so hard to be mature that it ends up more childish than before' and the issue ends on an abrupt note, but there is enough here to keep me hooked. Kirkman always defies expectations in his ongoings, and this collaboration with McFarlane is important, as Todd slowly returns to comics, has he still got it? Yes, it's he looks like Spawnder-Man, and yes it's a bit like Brother Voodoo, but it's a good start, with some fantastic art, and a different take on the superhero. It's good to have you back Todd.