- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2011

In 2009, writer Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman and sequential-art legend Todd (Spawn) McFarlane teamed their creative might to produce an oddly familiar but brutal comic book character.

Haunt: Immortal Edition, Book One (Image Comics, $34.99) takes the first 12 issues of the series and wraps a sturdy hard cover around the collection to beautifully preserve the often-gory action.

In Mr. Kirkman’s tale, a Catholic priest named Daniel Kilgore finds himself tethered to the spirit of his dead brother Kurt. The pair team up to manifest, on demand, a being covered in and powered by ectoplasm.

When Daniel finds himself caught up in his sibling’s covert ops work and a research project the Third Reich would appreciate, readers get stuck in an action-packed, outrageously violent world.

That’s not a bad thing, especially for those in love with gushing, bloody fight scenes, entrails aplenty, women serving cheesecake and a twinge of the days when Image Comics began.

The first observations of any veteran comics fan will be the ridiculous similarity between the Haunt’s illustrated design and Mr. McFarlane’s work on Spider-Man in the late 1980s.

The acrobatic hero sports a lithe body, just like Peter Parker, and shoots weblike protoplasmic projectiles often paired with razor-sharp tendrils. He also poses for attack just like our favorite web slinger.

That tribute is kind of fun, but I found Mr. Kirkman’s plot surprisingly average, considering his talent. The conflict that binds the brothers together revolves around a woman, Kurt’s neglected wife who also was Daniel’s past love. Sorry, boring.

In fact, male/female relationships supply a level of soap-opera melodrama throughout — always at their basest sex-dream level.

Now, it was fun to see the gruesome downfall of assassin warrior Cobra (cough, Chapel, cough), the odd and beefy personality of crime lord Mr. Hurg (cough, Kingpin, cough) and sexy agent Mirage (cough, Danger Girl Sydney Savage, cough).

I was settled in for a mildly entertaining effort, and then, midway through the book, something wonderful happened to really suck me in.

Much like Dorothy waking up in Oz, my eyes went from tolerating Ryan Ottley’s mediocre art to loving the final six issues starring illustrator Greg Capullo.

Now, nothing is wrong with Mr. Ottley’s effort, especially if you like John Romita Jr.’s work on Spider-Man.

However, compared to Mr. Capullo’s detail, it’s an eye-shattering experience. His disturbing ability to bring the violence of the Haunt to splash pages and his care with the female facial form makes the book worth the hefty price of admission.

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