Comic Picks By The Glick

Haunt vols. 1 & 2

October 3, 2011

It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that I have little affection for Todd McFarlane.  The man’s artistic and sales achievements on “Spider-Man” and “Spawn” mean less to me than his court battles with Neil Gaiman over ownership of Miracleman and the fact that he spends more time as a businessman than a comics creator these days.  That’s why I waited until I found these two volumes in the half-off bins at Comic-Con before giving them a shot, despite the involvement of Robert Kirkman.  It’s a credit to that man’s writing skills that the twelve issues here zip along eventfully, but there’s still very little emotional depth to make this a memorable project.

“Haunt” is the story of two brothers:  Daniel Kilgore, a priest who doesn’t take his vows all that seriously, and Kurt Kilgore, a top operative in a secret government agency who is killed after he takes matters into his own hands during a mission.  Due to their connection, Kurt’s spirit is kept from passing into the afterlife and is tethered to Daniel.  So the priest can see, hear and talk to his brother, and when needs arise, transform into being with incredible strength, agility and ectoplasmic powers.  This eventually leads Daniel to cross paths with the organization his brother worked for and he winds up in a world full of treachery, hired killers, and genetically mutated monstrosities.

Kirkman takes less time getting to the point with this series compared to “The Astounding Wolf-Man,” but he fails in getting us to care about his cast the way he does in his other series.  Daniel’s background as a priest ceases to be relevant partway into the first volume and the idea of a priest being sucked into this life seems to only have been considered on a surface level.  That’s a shame because there’s not a whole lot of depth to his character beyond his conversations with Kurt.  The same goes for the rest of the cast as Kirkman makes some attempts to give them interesting traits, such as the head of the opposing organization’s fixation on healthy living, but they mostly come off as familiar ciphers.

It also hurts the book that there doesn’t seem to be any real direction to it.  You’d think that finding out where the Kilgore brothers’ supernatural connection comes from and finding a way to send Kurt onto the afterlife would be the driving goal of the series, but it’s not.  There doesn’t seem to be any point to the goings on in “Haunt” besides showing the ongoing conflicts between the two agencies, and as I’ve said before they’re not interesting enough for me to care about.

The art is easily the most distinctive thing about these two volumes, though fans of McFarlane will likely be disappointed to learn that he has no role in it besides providing inks for most of them.  I will say that his inks do give Ryan Ottley’s pencils a distinctively gritty look to them in the first volume that helps distinguish this from his work on “Invincible.”  Layouts are handled by Greg Capullo in the first volume who takes over pencilling duties in vol. 2.  His work is even grittier, but there’s an appealing cartoonishness to his characters that lightens the tone and keeps things from getting too serious.  The action scenes are also appropriately over-the-top in terms of carnage.

“Haunt” is effectively one for “fans of the creators” as there’s not much else here to convert people who aren’t already fans of Kirkman, McFarlane, Ottley and Capullo.  That being said, the series is experiencing a creative shakeup as Capullo has already decamped to DC for “Batman,” and Kirkman is handing off writing duties to Joe Casey.  Casey’s frequent collaborator Nathan Fox will be taking over pencilling duties.  Based on what Casey did with “Wildcats,” I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll shake things up, because even doing something different for the sake of being different will be a welcome change from what we have here.

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