Haunt #1 (Image Comics)

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Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and Invincible/Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman team up to create Image's latest horror-tinged hero.

 

32 pgs. full color; $2.99

(W: Robert Kirkman; A: Greg Capullo, Ryan Ottley, and Todd McFarlane)

 

Few artists can claim to define a certain era of the comic book industry the way Todd McFarlane defined the early 90s, from his acclaimed runs on Amazing Spider-Man (where he co-created Venom) and Spider-Man (where he shattered single-issue sales records) to his work revolutionizing creator-owned comics with the co-founding of Image Comics and the creation of Spawn. Though McFarlane's success was due to his art, the amount he's drawn in the past 15 years barely amounts to a few dozen pages as he instead spent his time expanding his action figure empire, buying expensive baseballs, and trading lawsuits with well-known fantasy writers and former St. Louis Blues hockey players.

Which is what made it equal parts funny and satisfying when Robert Kirkman called out McFarlane at 2006's San Diego's Comic Con International, asking him point blank "Why can't you do a new comic?" The surprise came at the next year's CCI, when Kirkman and McFarlane announced that the pair had done just that, teaming up to create a mysterious new comic project under the name Haunt, a comic that, after a three-year gestation period (long, even by Image Comics standards), finally hits store shelves on October 7th.

The cover to Haunt no. 1 by Todd McFarlane. Click for a larger image.As a meeting of the minds between the man who defined the Image style and the author of two of the company's modern day hits (the superhero-done-right Invincible and the never-ending zombie epic The Walking Dead), you might expect Haunt to be a blend of old and new school sensibilities. But Haunt feels very much like a McFarlane comic. The mix of Heaven and Hell, sacred and profane, is on every page: the priest who nails hookers and says "shit" in the confessional, the just-following-orders soldier who bears witness to unspeakable atrocities, the "superhero" who isn't afraid to perform a head-ectomy on an unsuspecting bad guy.

It's weird, wildly violent stuff, but it's also a visceral thrill, thanks mostly to the dark, evocative artwork. Given the convoluted creative process--McFarlane and Kirkman teamed up on the concept, McFarlane designed the character, Kirkman scripts, longtime Spawn artist Greg Capullo does layouts, Invincible artist Ryan Ottley handles pencils, and McFarlane slings inks--you might expect a disconnect, but all the gears mesh perfectly. Ottley has always proved a versatile artist on Invincible, handling everything from quiet conversations to blood-soaked superhero battles to giant space operas with equal skill, but horror is something he hadn't ever really approached before. Capullo pulls him even further out of his comfort zone with his typically idiosyncratic layouts filled with long, skinny panels and unusual camera angles, but Ottley nails it all perfectly. Then McFarlane (always a better inker then he was a penciller) works his magic, roughing up Ottley's usual clean-line style to give it a jagged, dirty look that perfectly suits the material.

The plot barely gets cooking in this first issue, but what little is here makes for an intriguing introduction. Kurt is a guilt-ridden soldier who regularly visits his brother-turned-priest Daniel to give confession for the lives he has to take. For reasons yet to be revealed, Daniel and Kurt are otherwise estranged, and when Kurt sees something he shouldn't and winds up dead, Daniel has little interest in getting to the bottom of it. Until, that is, mysterious forces bring the two brothers' destinies together and the new hero Haunt is born.

This first issue is little more than introduction, but what's here makes for a solid start. Haunt is one to watch for. | Jason Green

Click here for a 10-page preview of Haunt #1, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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