It’s hard to put my finger on why exactly I enjoy the concept of Haunt so much. Is it my interest in ghosts? The wild, unpredictable action? Or perhaps its the fact that I have an older brother? Regardless of reasoning, Haunt is a series I’ve found enjoyable since I first picked it up. Sadly, the quality dipped a bit in Volume 3. A new creative team consisting of Joe Casey and Nathan Fox took over with Volume 4, however, so I decided to keep the faith. Could a new direction reinvigorate this series which lost its way?
Haunt Volume 4 picks up after the Kilgore brothers’ run in with the otherworldly Apparition. Daniel returns to his office at The Agency only to find that everyone, and everything, is gone. He is given no indication of why this happened, and cannot get in contact with any of his old coworkers. Of course, the Kilgores can’t ever have a peaceful life: a shadowy organization calling itself The Second Church comes after the pair. It’s up to Haunt to fight back against these fanatics while searching for their mission which may have ties to Daniel’s previous job as a priest.
Joe Casey’s writing is a mixed bag. On the plus side, he gives us a really cool group of villains in The Second Church. The fact that there’s an entire religious sect after Haunt is a superb idea, and makes the main characters’ struggles seem grander in scale. The new character of Still Harvey Tubman is also great fun: at first, I felt like he was shoehorned in but I grew to like him a lot by the end of this volume. Haunt needs allies, and with The Agency gone Tubman fills that void with his ridiculous hippie swordsmanship. Connecting the new villains to Daniel’s past was also a cool choice, albeit something that did seem farfetched.
Regrettably, there are a number of things I strongly disliked about this volume’s writing. This may seem like an odd complaint, but swearing was horrendously overused; I’m not offended by curse words, but here it was so overdone it seemed an unnecessary attempt to make things “edgier.” I swear (pun intended) that there was at least one just about every other page. Furthermore, I feel like Casey wanted to throw out much of what Kirkman built up in the first three volumes and reset things to be exactly the way he wanted. I cannot blame a new writer for wanting to take things in a new direction, but he did so hastily. Kurt becomes a huge jackass for no discernable reason despite acting like a kind older brother and trying to help Daniel as much as possible in earlier issues; perhaps they’ll explain this sudden change of personality, but it really seemed out of character. There was only one scene in the entire volume where I actually saw a glimmer of Kurt’s old personality, but it was too little, too late. Furthermore, Daniel’s girlfriend, Autumn, gets killed off simply for shock value and the need to “reset” things.
The art, like the writing, contains an equal mix of positive and negative elements. Nathan Fox’s style is very different from Capullo’s, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think Fox actually draws casual scenes, such as Daniel walking around and smoking, going to the coffee shop, etc. very well. I like the way he portrays the characters. Furthermore, his designs for the armor and weaponry of the Second Church is downright badass: who wouldn’t want to see neon-colored crusaders wearing Space Marine armor and riding motorcycles painted like vicious beasts? The city-scapes are probably the best part of this comic; never let it be said that Fox doesn’t know how to design and illustrate some amazing structures. The insects that arrive in the second half are also damn cool. The way sound effects are often shown in this comic is also unique: the letters are often incorporated into the object making the sound, so a crackling fire will have the letters “fwoosh” inside of it, for instance.
Obviously, I’ve got some gripes about the artwork, too. Most of the fight scenes are very well done, but at least half the panels felt too busy. There were just too many lines and so many things going on that many of them looked like a bunch of blobs were fighting for panel space. I also disliked Haunt’s design: he felt too goopy and constantly had lines and lines of ectoplasm flying off of him which made the scenes even harder to follow. The gore, like the swearing I mentioned earlier, also felt overdone.
Time for the verdict: Haunt Volume 4 was good. As much as I griped about the downsides, at the end of the day I enjoyed it. I think this new creative team took a little while to find their footing since the last third of the volume was pretty darn good. That said, I feel like Volume 5 will really determine whether this one is worth investing in. My advice is to wait to see if Volume 5 is any good before reading this one. If you’re a big Haunt fan, you probably won’t enjoy this trade paperback as much as someone with no exposure to the character. This volume is actually a decent starting point for new readers, though I’d still suggest reading a brief summary of Haunt’s origin online before picking it up if you don’t have prior exposure to the character.
-interesting new enemies and associated plot threads
-awesome designs for the enemies
-Still Harvey Tubman a creative new ally
-Kurt’s character is completely rewritten in a negative manner
-many of the scenes are too busy and it can be difficult to tell what’s happening
-some events and changes reset earlier parts of the series unnecessarily
Brett Simon is a twenty-three year old comic enthusiast. He’s pretty sure Still Harvey Tubman is his long-lost uncle.
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