Robert Kirkman has established his narrative credibility with The Walking Dead series. It is aptly named, because the book is essentially a very, very long walk through the lives of the survivors of a zombie plague. It has no clear end in sight (other than death), no five-issue story arcs, no predictable characters or cyphers, no spandex, and no color. And even if borrowed heavily from the classic film 28 Days Later in its first issue, any cribbing disappeared quickly and left no lasting effects. The book has been recognized as a masterpiece by no less than The New York Times, and if you haven’t read it yet, this is the perfect time: The first 50 issues were recently compiled in a doorstop-heavy single volume. That may sound intimidating, but I guarantee you’ll read it fast. And want more. But The Walking Dead is so “un-comic-book” that you might be wondering if Kirkman can do anything more conventional.
Well, he has written for some of Marvel’s more off-kilter titles (Marvel Zombies, Ultimate X-Men) and even some straightforward stuff on Captain America. He’s also got his own “family of heroes” title, “Invincible,” which has gotten good reviews but it never really worked for me. I haven’t had the time or money to check out “The Astounding Wolf-Man” and “Capes,” which a lot of folks rave about. (Note: Kirkman recently announced that Wolf-Man will end with #25, so I expect there will be a big bound volume available soon.) But I did see the first Trade Paperback of Haunt on the shelf at Victory Comics in Falls Church and figured I’d give it a try.
The series is part Firestorm, part espionage, and part gore-filled monster flick. The writing is solid, exciting, taut and completely unpredictable. It’s as good as Kirkman’s work on The Walking Dead, but also very difficult to compare. Haunt is more conventional, in that the first Trade is a clear story arc (“The Origin!”), and it’s got more traditional characters as well. But Kirkman handles it expertly–so that it is as fresh as anything else you’ll read.
As for the art, I’ve never liked Todd MacFarlane more. MacFarlane is best known for his Spider-Man work, but unless he was drawing Carnage or Venom, he never really worked for me on that book–his stuff is a lot like John Romita, Jr., but it’s a little too . . . Creepy. His Spawn project was pretty good, but the story never got me. Here, he’s a perfect match. Å possessed secret agent, “Haunt” is a lanky, fluid character with large eyes and claws. In short, he looks like Spider-Man. And the story is in constant motion, just like MacFarlane’s “posed” style. Every frame is a poster. It’s that good. And the pages are well-arranged, laid out with clear vision.
This book gets an A+ from me. You need to buy it. Now.