HAUNT by Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane, Ryan Ottley, and Greg Capullo
Robert Kirkman seems determined to take over the comics world. Based on his latest successes, that could be possible. His comics series The Walking Dead is basically a soap opera with zombies that keeps readers hanging on by their fingernails from month to month, and is now going to be a television series as well as a prose novel series. He’s also rewritten some of the comics mythos with Invincible, which turns some of the superhero tropes on their ears and kicks them in the butt to provide some necessary (arguable in several comics shops) changes.
In Haunt, authors Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane offer up a fresh and twisted take on supernatural superheroes. At least, I think Haunt is a superhero tale. It might just be a monster story where the monster ultimately ends up doing some good. I haven’t decided exactly how that’s shaping up. Oh, and there’s a lot of spy stuff thrown in too.
Kirkman is known for not pulling punches in his stories, and he doesn’t pull any in this origin arc either. McFarlane (Spawn) leans toward the hard-hitting and gritty himself. As a result, this comics series is definitely not one I’d recommend to youngsters. Not only is there lots of graphic violence, but the themes are adult as well.
So with the audience defined, I’ll say that the story is pretty intense and gripping. Nothing terribly original stands out in the series, though. Comics have been filled with characters haunted by ghosts that made them into something more than human (Spectre, Brother Voodoo), so that riff – though certainly not played out – has been around.
Another thing that bothers me is the stuff Haunt is constantly shooting around. I’m still not sure if it is ectoplasm or what, but it certainly reminds me of Spider-Man’s webbing. In fact, the way that Haunt uses the ectoplasm (my word to talk about it) is a lot the same way Spider-Man employs his webbing. Except for the whole razor-sharp edges eviscerating and dismembering his opponents thing.
The premise is fairly simple. Two brothers are joined together by an unholy bond so that the living one joins with the dead one and they become a force for – well, a force for something. Maybe the intelligence agency one of them worked for? The first brother Kurt is (was) a government intelligence operative, one of those bloodthirsty black ops types that doesn’t stop killing when the going gets rough. The other brother is Daniel, a failed priest who hasn’t gotten over his love for Kurt’s wife. And that’s just part of the twisted dynamic that keeps the brothers fighting on both sides of the afterlife.
After Kurt gets killed, he shows up and persuades Daniel to go warn Amanda, Kurt’s widow. During the save operation, Daniel and Kurt merge to create Haunt and end up battling the men that killed Kurt. At first they’re fighting, which is to be expected, but that seems to get shelved pretty quickly throughout the first five-issue run.
Ryan Ottley (a frequent Kirkman collaborator) and Greg Capullo draw the comics and do a bang-up job of presenting action and emotion throughout the panels. The world feels big and fast as they present the stories, and I enjoyed what I saw a lot.
Haunt leaves me kind of torn (haunts me, perhaps?). On one hand, it’s a fun ride filled with violence and melodrama, but on the other it just doesn’t feel too terribly original. I’ll pick up the second volume to keep up with the story, but I’m not compelled to go find it immediately.