I will admit up front that I had serious reservations about Robert Kirkman, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion all leaving Image Comics Haunt title. Haunt #18 was the last issue for the old creative team, and this week the new creative team of writer Joe Casey and artist Nathan Fox take over in issue #19. When I first heard about the change months ago, I wasn’t even sure if I would continue to pick up the title. Fortunately I calmed down, and realized that I would be a complete douchebag if I didn’t even give the new creative team a chance. But in all honesty, my main concern was if the new art style I had seen in Haunt teaser images would detract from the comic I had followed faithfully from the first issue. Nathan Fox has a style that is about as far away from Greg Capullo as you can get. The art in Haunt was the element that I enjoyed the most about this comic. I know that it is completely unfair to compare and contrast the new creative team with the old one, but I honestly don’t see how I can review this title without doing so. I will not do this in any future Haunt reviews, so please indulge me this one time.
Haunt #19 really seems like a complete reboot of the series. Sure, the old characters are present, but this is a new team, a completely new writing and art style, a new enemy threat emerges right from the beginning, new character elements and conflicts, the whole enchilada. As it turns out, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
This issue opens in a hellish scene of fire, brimstone, and gore, said to be “the near future.” Instead of being down about the state of things, a figure that appears to be Haunt surveys the scene from atop of what looks to be the Christ the Redeemer statue that is located just outside of Rio de Janeiro. He delivers a monologue about finally being “complete” and “free,” along with happy little tidbits like “the dawn of a new world of death.” Okay, Mr. Casey, you have my full attention.
Jump to the present day. We observe a funeral for a fallen member of an organization that refers to itself as part of “The Second Church,” and appears to be some esoteric sect. Is the fallen member a man, machine, or a hybrid of both? Are these people some type of technotheists? At any rate, a grand crusade to enact swift justice is sworn, and one gets the feeling these true believers will not let anything stand in their way. Especially when they vow that, “all who stand against us will burn,” you can’t help but feel that they don’t mean “maybe.” The opening monologue and dialogue throughout these opening pages is very well-written, and doesn’t sound like some of the typical comic book clichés that, for better or worse, many comic readers have come to regard as the status quo.
Soon we are in New York City, with our protagonists Daniel Kilgore and his ghostly brother Kurt. Right off the bat Nathan Fox addresses what I have seen as a potential hurdle for new Haunt readers, by illustrating Kurt in a way that makes it clear that he is a spirit. Kurt is portrayed as transparent, and floats along whimsically, even upside-down at one point. He comes and goes as he pleases; even in the middle of conversations, much to Daniel’s displeasure. Daniel returns to his apartment to find his roommate out. He is plagued by strange dreams. The next day with Kurt in tow, they find The Agency that they work black-op style missions for abandoned as well. Something is seriously wrong here.
Daniel seeks refuge at Autumn’s place to try and figure things out. Autumn is sort of a “friend with benefits,” who will be familiar to regular Haunt readers. Kurt is acting strange, but you won’t believe just how out of character he acts until you see it for yourself in the final action-packed sequence that closes out this issue in a fairly shocking manner!
So how does the new version of Haunt compare to the old? The art is a very different style, but at this point isn’t a deal-breaker for me. Todd McFarlane is no longer credited on the title page as providing addition inks. Mr. McFarlane even addresses the new artistic direction in the PostMortem section at the end of this issue. He admits to being receptive to trying a more indie feel for Haunt, with art that is more driven by spontaneity and expression; rather than Capullo’s, and even Ottley’s more technical, painstaking line work. While I do have certain comic art styles that I normally gravitate towards, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a wide variety styles. That decision is much easier when the new art style on a title is paired with good writing.
Joe Casey brings some very interesting new developments to the Haunt character. I don’t want to spoil it, but there seems to be a new conflict between Daniel and Kurt about who is really in control when they join together to form Haunt. This struggle is a breath of fresh air that seems more in line with the rocky relationship Daniel and Kurt shared when Kurt was alive. Early on in the series, this was explored a bit by Kirkman, but seemed to be abandoned as events progressed. Casey’s version of Haunt looks like it will be much darker than before, and I strongly support this direction. It didn’t seem like key plot points from the last issue were addressed here in issue #19. Of course these threads could easily be picked up in future issues of Haunt, but in all honesty this new story seems more interesting. Haunt #19 being so different and new, without seeming to be tied down to the old storyline, makes this a good jumping in point for new readers. Longtime fans should probably just go in with an open mind, like when you first pick up a new title. Will this new incarnation of Haunt keep me reading like the old version? This is only the first issue, so I am not ready to make that judgment just yet. Does this new Haunt have potential? Undoubtedly! I will not hesitate to pick up the next issue, and look forward to seeing what this new version of Haunt has in store for us.