Yep. I remember the joke this idea was originally. Some bet between Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane (the businessmen of comics) made at some convention because, hell, they knew it would sell and fashion a TV option somewhere along the line. Of course, that’s complete speculation on my part, but really, such a stretch? Of course, though, like the monthly junkie I’ve been for years, I bought Haunt #1 the moment it dropped and read it like every other pulse pounder on the comics internet. Reassuringly though, I did not enjoy it. I found the book predictable and weak minded, offering little but some candy coated McFarlane inks over dynamic Ryan Ottley line work. That part, I will admit, was fun. But Kirkman … the dude took a decent concept and cut the balls clean off, crafting Haunt into another comic influenced by everything wrong with the early Image titles and slapping a shit ridden cliffhanger on it. One issue, and I was out. Little did I know I’d be back …
Two years later. Issue 19. Joe Casey. Nathan Fox. Boom. I’m back. And while I am enjoying the comic much more this time around, my feelings aren’t exactly clean cut and gleeful. I have an issue or two with what’s been established, yet that aside, Haunt is now, at least, interesting and energized. Casey and Fox have come onto this project like Alan Moore post-Martin Pasko on Swamp Thing and have given purpose to what essentially started as a purposeless endeavor. The work on Haunt applies Casey’s Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker philosophy to an already living, breathing comic book series, showing that any bland super hero story can be more than it’s made out to be. Thematically, I think the point’s hard to ignore as Daniel Kilgore, the main character, seems to be on a mission to truly embrace what he is, showing that even Haunt, a bullshit mainstream comic, can dig down, find something within itself and present a vivid package.
To do that though, a hard shift had to occur. Casey and Fox quickly pushed away from the status quo on this one, and they went ahead and set their own direction for it. The team kept one essential ingredient via the actual Haunt character, but between killing his girl, having the cast disappear and throwing our protagonist into a whole new situation, Casey and Fox dissolved everything established about this series and basically said, “fuck it, we’re starting fresh.” This mindset has also dictated the structure and pacing of the run, thus far, as little of the upheaval has been explained. The plot’s been more about doing rather than discussing. Or, as Casey puts it:
The approach relates to what Casey and Fox want to do with this comic. They’re not here to exactly just continue the tale in place by Kirkman and McFarlane. Instead, these guys are hitting a hard left, trying their best to do something new with Haunt because, obviously, what was already happening wasn’t really going anywhere. These first four issues read like a rescue mission as Casey and Fox do what they can to save this comic book from the path of bullshit it’s on and rehabilitate it into a fine piece of genre work. It’s no coincidence then that the actual story involves a rescue mission – with Joe Casey, via Still Harvey Tubman, in story saving the protagonist from all sorts of terrible torture. Granted, Casey could take time to explain story details and keep to this mantra of “fuck it, we’re starting fresh,” but I think the raw “let’s go” mentality of the writing speaks to Casey’s own personality as well as contrasts against a majority of what’s done in mainstream comics. Not slowing down, simply, has a greater visceral impact on the reader as well as offers a grander statement.
And Fox’s artwork compliments all of this. He’s using many midsized panels on this book, but he’s stacking them on the page in a way which moves your eye at a brisk pace. But it’s his style which accomplishes the most, as surface a detail as that is. Fox’s style takes what Paul Pope’s does and removes the iconography from it, boiling the line work down into something a bit more savage. In fight sequences though, I wouldn’t want anything but Fox’s style on my side as the savagery in his line emphasizes the fast pace Casey’s script moves at. For the most part, I’m not aware of any technical tricks or fundamentals Fox may use to tell the story, but there’s clearly more to the actual style and drawings than aesthetic points as the look of his art reflects what this comic is about at the moment. I’d say it’s effective. Plus pretty.
With all this said though, the jumbled manner of the comic hasn’t entirely been pleasing to read. Not that I need answers or explanations to enjoy a story, but without a reason for an evil church, how can I hinge any weight on the conflict between Haunt and an evil church? My bigger complaint, though, is that I find the chaos a little bit too messy. While I enjoy the freewheelin’ nature of Casey and Fox’s Haunt, the pacing doesn’t exactly read like it’s under the control of the writer. Obviously, I know the hectic pacing exists for a reason, but Casey seems to have maybe even let it get away from him. Ultimately though, it’s more an issue of what this comic book will be. I realize we’re only at the beginning, but I feel after four issues everything’s still up in the air too much, gravity free, waiting on mission control to provide a tad bit of information.
Whether or not, I’m in, but I’m hoping for some development soon. That’s what this book needs at this point. It’s made the rift from the previous material and established a plan. Now, Haunt just needs a little more thought in it to really achieve the More it can potentially be.