Written and Co-Created by? Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane
Layouts by Greg Capullo
Pencils by Ryan Ottley
Inks by Todd McFarlane
Colors by FCO Plascencia
Letters by Richard Starkings of Comicraft
Published by Image Comics
Is it the early 90s again? Because it sure feels like it and it’s everything in a good way. None of the things that ruined comics; this is all positive. If you’re familiar with comics at all the names above will look like superstars. Todd McFarlane was one of the founding fathers of Image Comics and creator of Spawn. Greg Capullo came into his own on the same title and was, and continues to be, one of my favorite comic artists of all time. Richard Starkings was responsible for much of the good design and lettering in the industry and somebody I look up to as a letterer myself. Ryan Ottley works on another great comic, also written/created by Robert Kirkman, called Invincible. FCO, we’re told in the back of the comic, is from Invincible as well. So when a dream team comes together to make a comic the first thing you have to wonder is whether it will be any good.
The answer quite simply is yes. We get the familiar in terms of the creators but a new slant on some haunting espionage. The comic starts off with a man who has just been with a “lady of the evening,” and it’s not the first time. They meet weekly on Thursday. He leaves and as we flip the page we see him standing in the building’s outside doorway. He’s smoking a cigarette. He’s also a priest and apparently a man of many vices. It’s at this point many would be up in arms crying foul. But you have to look at it as a story and the fact that nobody is perfect. He’s a character.
From one weekly meeting we go into the next. Apparently scheduled, for whatever reasons on the same day, and the priest is late for a confession. Turns out it’s his brother who wants to confess for his sins. Murder, actually. It’s a routine the priest is fed up with because it’s the same thing every week and his brother never learns. But you see the twist is that his brother works for a government organization. He looks to be black-ops. In what coincidentally seems to be a theme these past few months he’s trying to extract a scientist running experiments.
But our man has to cut himself out of a body bag laying in a mass grave and sneak his way in. This being a comic book that’s not going to happen. In true McFarlane and Kirman gore we’re treated to comic book bloodshed and the bad guys get it hard.
The extractions goes off without a hitch after that, or at least until the scientist wants to get one of the specimens he worked on. If not it’ll set him back years. We’re privy to the “experiments” and as the scientist says, they’re not cadavers. I won’t ruin the rest.
We cut back to the church and find out that these two brothers, more specifically the priest with the rest of the family, are not on speaking terms. We’ll find out in future issues. The agent walks out of the church and back out onto the street. On a street corner he’s abducted and thrown into a van. It’s a pure action movie sequence. In true to form we find ourselves witnessing a torture because of something that happened during the extraction. It all ends badly.
In one of the most somber scenes in the comic we witness our priest in a limousine just outside of a graveyard. It’s pouring out. FCO did a fantastic job setting the mood here. Our priest is told to go talk to his brother’s wife. He’s not on good terms with her but she may be in danger. Who tells him that is a crucial point in the comic and I don’t want to give it away. The priest does as he’s told.
An awkward non-conversation happens. The one thing about any Greg Capullo layout, which is something I’ve always loved, is the number of panels setting the mood of a story. A closeup here, a head turn there. It’s a series of cuts and moments within a larger act that really sets the scene. At the end of it all Amanda asks the priest, Daniel, to stay the night. He spends it on the couch. It’s just so she wouldn’t be alone.
Which sets the end scenes. What was said in the limo has come to pass but so has the unexpected. The men shoot Daniel and before the bullet can hit, his brother Kurt’s ghost jumps into him. Ectoplasm, I think, flies and our new hero is born. There’s no how or why nor does there need to be.
Haunt isn’t the typical dark comic book. It’s not superheroes in tights but it’s not something we’ve seen before either. At least I haven’t. It’s an espionage/gritty pulp-noir mixed with what looks to be the paranormal. But it might not be. We just don’t know yet.
If you liked anything that Image put out in the early 90s, or any of Robert Kirkman’s comics, or Wolverine, or even Venom…odds are you will like this. Perhaps even love it. I never intended on buying this. But then I heard the team talk about it in one way or another online in interviews and podcasts and my interest finally peaked. It also makes me kick myself for having to sell off my run of Spawn (1-75, and countless minis like Neil Gaiman’s “Angela”) years ago to buy more comics. It just fed the hobby but still right now I’d like to dig through all those issue and look them over.
This is the team on their A-game and quite a few people I respect in comics. Some of the them, such as Ryan Ottley and FCO, are new to me but their talent is right up there with the rest. Haunt was a very enjoyable step away from superhero comics and yes the comic lives up to all the hype. But in this case the hype is excitement. A far cry from the early 90s downturns of the industry.