Written by: Joey Esposito, Special to CC2K
A collaboration between Image Comics' own Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane seems like a match made in heaven for most comic nerds, but don't shit your britches just yet. The advertised "Kirkman and McFarlane team-up" is a bit misleading. To be clear, Kirkman is writing the script of Haunt based on characters dreamed up by McFarlane, who is not the main artist on this book, but the inker. In fact, the entire art team on Haunt is rather complicated, with Greg Capullo providing layouts, Ryan Ottley doing finishes, and McFarlane on inks. So those of you expecting to see art reflecting that of the cover, which in itself looks like a bizarre mashup of McFarlane's Venom and Spawn, don't be disappointed when that isn't what you find.
The issue disappoints in many ways, the least of which is the art team jumble. Though I imagine the plot will come to a level ground a few issues down the line, this first issue is so jam packed with plot setup and background story, all while Kirkman tries his best to give us characters worth reading about. By "worth reading about", obviously, I mean complete and total assholes. The two brothers, Kurt and Daniel, are complete opposites. Danel, supposedly a priest, loves to bang hookers and do things priests are not typically known for doing, like cursing. And oh yeah, banging hookers. Kurt is some sort of secret agent who does actually show some hint of morality in both his rescuing of prisoners and his seeking forgiveness for his sins. In fact, the morality role reversal that the two characters employ is the most interesting thing about the entire issue. Unfortunately, it only lasts a few pages. When Kurt is murdered, Daniel becomes infused with his ghost and the two personalities become one forming the titular character, Haunt.
In between all of these events, there is one of the most rushed transitions I've ever seen, jumping directly from Kurt being alive and imprisoned to Daniel talking with his ghost. For an origin story, tradition has taught me to expect some sort of "first occurance", which here would be the first time Kurt's ghost appears to Daniel. I'm not saying rules should never be broken, but part of the fun of debuting a new character is being able to tell how he got there. If this ommission had a valid reason for occuring, it would be somehting I could pass over. Instead, Kirkman uses the pages he saved for expositional scenes that setup a history of why the brothers hate each other. These scenes are completely unnecessary, as we've already established their disdain for one another in the opening scene. The why could most certainly be handled at a later time, in another issue.
The art, aside from my previous gripes, is effective. The storytelling is rather kinetic, using lots of action; rarely are there characters standing still and talking. The colors are appropriately grim, there are many shades of blue filtering over a majority of the scenes. The artists are better at building the enviroment and tone of the book than they are at the small details in the figure work, but in the end it all blends together fairly well, resulting in a standard, but proficient, piece of comic art.
Overall, for a book with two high profile names of the industry plastered boldly on the front, Haunt just bleeds mediocrity. The characters have interesting facets to them, yet still fall flat despite repeated attempts to flesh them out with exposition. Essentially, there is a germ of an idea here that, with much more nurturing – and perhaps effort – could result in a new book with a great, fresh hero. I'll give this book a chance for improvement, but I don't have much faith that it'll wind up being anything much more than a "side project" book that these creators throw some thought into on occassion. Think of it like Velvet Revolver: decent enough to take a look-see, but it sure as hell ain't Guns N' Roses.