Back when “Haunt” began, I didn’t like it, and I’ve avoided it ever since. What could lure me back? No less than the creative team behind “Dark Reign: Zodiac,” Joe Casey and Nathan Fox. The promise of Casey’s energetic writing and Fox’s breathtaking pencils should be enough to make anyone spend three bucks. The announcement of them as the new creative team of “Haunt” beginning with issue 19 was a surprising one and a dramatic shift in direction for the Robert Kirkman/Todd McFarlane creation. Equally surprising is how this issue doesn’t feel like a dramatic new start. If there’s one thing that holds “Haunt” #19 back, it’s how much reading the previous 18 issues feels necessary at times unless you’re willing to go with the flow and expect an explanation later.
The most immediate change for “Haunt” with this issue is the art. I hesitate to say something like “Nathan Fox is the furthest thing from Greg Capullo as you can find,” but the two styles are different in many ways. At their surface, the focus on dynamic movement and mood over correct anatomy is a shared trait. Fox is willing to bend characters and events as far as necessary to get across the feeling of a scene. Late in the issue, when Haunt takes on some soldiers for Second Church, the pages are a mess of blacks, reds, and white, nothing but frenetic action that looks pretty damn cool.
When the brothers Kilgore first merged to unleash the Haunt powers, we get the first sign that Fox’s interpretation of the character would be more fluid than what came before. The ‘hero’ often looks like he’s made out of a mix of water and gas that never settles and always looks like it’s ready to come unstuck. The way that Fox tones it down in the scenes focusing on Daniel only make it more impactful when he lets loose. There’s a clear rise and fall to the art that works nicely.
Joe Casey doesn’t stop to explain much in this issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s a straight continuation of what came before. He doesn’t explain much, because he immediately begins shuffling pieces offstage. The spy agency that Daniel worked for has seemingly disappeared on him, he continues to find the presence of his ghost brother Kurt a hassle, and he seems a little lost, unsure what to do. The issue begins with a flash forward that shows Haunt, speaking with word balloons that combine Daniel and Kurt’s balloons, glorifying in death and destruction, seemingly set free from previous burdens, so there’s a clear direction to the book. This issue is somewhat transitory.
Since Casey mostly begins by taking out plot elements from the book, it makes sense that he wouldn’t explain those things too much. That little is explained about the brothers Kilgore is more difficult to understand. We don’t know much about either character beyond the obvious surface details. Kurt has the most defined personality as ‘annoying ghost’ and that’s not particularly deep.
In “Haunt” #19, Joe Casey and Nathan Fox make an effort to please both existing readers of the title and newcomers, succeeding for the most part. The art is gorgeous and is worth poring over again and again to see exactly what Fox is doing. Casey glosses over a lot, but also provides a clear direction of where the book will wind up soon. The end of the issue is pure insane violence and leaves things in a very interesting place.