“Haunt” #1 is one of those comics that reviewers hate to review, because reviews mean absolutely nothing with a book like this. Todd McFarlane created this comic with Robert Kirkman and also happens to ink it, gaining the comic a sizable amount of interest and fans right off the bat, most of whom will reject and lampoon any negative review. Those who look at the book and think it looks bad will read a negative review and simply shrug, acknowledging that of course that comic received one-and-a-half stars, it looks awful. And it is awful.
“Haunt” reads almost like a parody of itself with overly dark characters (ooh, a priest who frequents a prostitute!), excessive violence (a tooth ripped out with a man’s bare hands in a torture session), and a character design obviously influenced by McFarlane’s work on Spider-Man. If McFarlane’s name wasn’t attached, you would almost think a parody, but it’s completely straight and serious.
The story is told, mostly, in a framing sequence as Kurt confesses to his brother Daniel, the aforementioned priest, about his most recent black ops mission. Kurt wakes up in a body bag in a mass grave, which was not part of the plan, so he has to break into a military base to retrieve a scientist and, in the process, learns some disturbing things -- and does a few disturbing things himself. The mission itself is fairly paint-by-numbers as Kurt breezes through opposition, killing as needed, and encounters one of those pesky ethical problems that may just get him in trouble later on.
The dynamic between Kurt and Daniel will clearly play a large role in the series and what little we see is somewhat interesting, probably the most interesting aspect of the issue. A black ops agent that is surprisingly moral is the brother of a priest who is surprisingly immoral? And they dislike one another? There are possibilities there and the second half of the issue adds more information that makes the new status quo of their relationship even more interesting.
The art, as seen in the preview of book, is disappointing if only because Ryan Ottley is a better artist than “Haunt” #1’s work displays. Go find any issue that he drew of “Invincible” and it will be better than the work you find here as he’s hamstringed into a McFarlane-esque art style, first, by the layouts of Greg Capullo and, then, by McFarlane’s inks. In some figures, you can see Ottley’s usual style peek through, one that’s more cartoony and lighter than the overly-rendered, heavily-detailed McFarlane look. Sandwiched between the two men who have so defined the look of “Spawn,” it makes me wonder why get Ottley at all when a specific look was wanted?
As I said at the beginning of this review, if this book appeals to you because you’re a fan of McFarlane and his work, you’ll probably enjoy “Haunt” #1. If you’re not, you’ll most likely find this a pointless comic that never really offers anything new and feels like a bad joke.