Scott Chitwood and Danny Luckert's "Haunted" #1 follows Sarah McAllister, one of the few survivors left after demons, ghosts, and other creatures of nightmare invaded the world. When she runs into a scientist and a priest who plan to send the monsters back whence they came, she has to decide whether to join them on their journey to the heavy ion collider in Upton, New York. With its nifty genre mash-up and promising cast, this series has a great premise, but it needs a lot more attention at the line level.
It's clear Chitwood has a strong grasp of the necessary elements for a successful series. "Haunted" draws together a well-balanced ensemble of Sarah, Dr. Adrien Montagu the scientist, Pastor Rupert Wallingford the priest, and Sarah's friend Steve. The metaphysical debates between Adrien and Rupert bring in both light humor and thematic elements, while Sarah and Steve have a strong emotional history. The four provide a nice mix of skills and perspectives that already feels like it'll be effective.
Chitwood also wastes no time getting them together. After a status quo establishing sequence with Sarah, he quickly sets all the pieces in motion. The issue moves with determination and confidence, following a clear structure that's got its eye firmly on the series' macro goals. It may not be the most inventive structure out there, but it's executed expertly.
However, the dialogue and narration are generic and unpolished. This problem is much more evident during the opening, when the audience is limited to Sarah's internal monologue. She traces what's happening with lines like "Spoke too soon! They spotted me!" and "AAAHHHH! So loud!" This is workmanlike writing in all the worst ways.
It's telling that the issue picks up when Adrien and Rupert are introduced, but even those two don't have smooth conversations. These characters have developed personalities, but it's not just the content of their dialogue that needs to be different; it's also the sound of it. There's a lack of specificity in their phrases that lends itself to heavy-handedness. A little more flavor and nuance to the dialogue would go a long, long way.
Still, "Haunted" feels fresh despite its dialogue (though it unfortunately takes place in yet another white-people-only post-apocalypse). Luckert's monster designs and Plascenia's colors bring an urban edge to the supernatural, and more importantly, they help to sell the story. When Adrien gives the somewhat pseudoscientific explanation that the spirits are "electromagnetic entities," I could see that idea reflected in the art. With crackling edges and colors that look like electricity – shocking blue, deep red, angry orange – the spirits really do look electromagnetic.
Luckert also experiments with different ways to convey movement, and I appreciate the inventiveness even when a particular set of panels doesn't read. It adds interest and off-kilter-ness to the chase scenes, emphasizing the alternate reality aspect of the story. I'm looking forward to what he comes up with next.
It's easy to see why "Haunted" was optioned by Bat Hat Harry; this story has remarkably solid bones, which even some of my favorite titles don't. It's only in the details where it needs some fleshing out -- but details are often what keeps the reader coming back.