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Fanboy of Fear Chris Gage Review by
Chris Gage
HauntedTHE HAUNTED # 1 and 2
WRITER: Peter David
ARTISTS: Nat Jones (pencils) / Kevin Conrad & Rich Bonk (inks)

Chaos! Comics

I have to admit, I'd always stereotyped Chaos! Comics as being all about huge knockers and ultraviolence, and not much concerned with telling a good story (kind of like my movie TEENAGE CAVEMAN, right, Feo? [ahh . . . you don't wanna know what I think - feo]). I kind of grew out of that halfway through the run of DEADWORLD back in the late '80s. But when I heard Peter David was writing a new four-issue miniseries for Chaos, I decided to check it out. David is best known for his superhero work (HULK, CAPTAIN MARVEL, YOUNG JUSTICE), and I was curious to see how he'd handle a horror comic. When I heard the protagonists have supernatural powers, I was afraid it might read like a superhero book in drag, but I am happy to report that THE HAUNTED sits squarely in the shadows.

The titular characters are four high school teenagers: cheerleader Celia Thorne, who can manipulate the elements; school slut Kat Dinateo, who takes on the feral aspects of a were-cat; jock Cliff Cross, who can summon shades of the dead; and activist Desiree Bricker, who has the ability to leave her body in an astral form. As the kids are struggling with the ramifications of their newly manifested abilities, they are brought together by the mysterious Stitch, a dropout with a mysterious secret who no one has seen in a while, and who seems to know what’s going on. He finds them at the same time as a group of the requisite men-in-suits-and-sunglasses try to capture the kids. Stitch rescues them with his own occult abilities, and explains that they are the product of an experiment in which their mothers were secretly impregnated by an organization called "The Gray Cell", to create children with occult powers. Now that the plans have come to fruition, the Gray Cell’s leader, Mr. Gray, wants to harvest the crop. In the second issue, he sends some of his more loyal experiments after our heroes.

Although comparisons to BUFFY will no doubt be made, this series reminds me more of Stephen King's FIRESTARTER, albeit with the occult taking the place of genetic engineering. The idea of a bunch of kids with newly emerging powers hunted by a mysterious, evil shadow organization is far from new (see everything from THE X-MEN to GEN 13), but David's skill as a writer manages to keep it engaging. His characters, though seeming stereotypes (slut, jock, princess, overachiever), are given enough shading to make them three-dimensional. For instance, Cliff, the quarterback, may be gay, and is the sole supporter of his troubled younger sister. Though I generally enjoy David's work, the one thing that's always bothered me about his writing is a tendency to go overboard with humor and snappy one-liners, even where it's not appropriate. I'm pleased to say he doesn't cross the line here. My one major complaint is that, by the second issue, the attitude these kids are throwing at each other does become tiresome. We've all seen this sort of story before, and know that these kids from different social circles will have to come together to survive, so all the posturing seems kind of pointless. Bottom line, though, David takes a lot of formulaic elements and manages to make them interesting, which speaks well of his talents as a writer.

The art, by Nat Jones, is of the Todd McFarlane school, and I have mixed feelings about it. It's definitely moody, and he can certainly draw grotesque creatures and walking corpses very well, but at times it gets a bit cartoony. I suspect that as Jones breaks away from the McFarlane mold and nurtures his own style, that'll become less of a problem.

Overall, THE HAUNTED treads ground we've all seen before, but does it well enough to keep the reader engaged. If you like this kind of thing, give it a whirl. I bestow upon THE HAUNTED three Rabid Fanboys.

Review copyright 2002 by E.C.McMullen Jr.

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