This book is puzzling to me; I really enjoyed a lot of what they did with the story and I disliked other things just as much. It walks this very fine balance of being cheesy and serious and that’s really its strength as a comic. The concept of the story isn’t horribly original, hell the characters aren’t very original, but it’s the fact that the two are paired together that makes the book enjoyable.
The story begins with a boy in class drawing frantically as kids pick on him from behind. He’s drawing a beautiful ghostly woman who is clearly above his skill level. After school the same kids pick on him and for some weird reason really hate his shoes. At any rate they take said shoes and tell him to get new ones. Once he gets home his father tells him that he is in fact, not going to buy him new shoes so our battered and beaten little boy begins praying to a statue that resembles his drawing from before. The next day we find him dead and nearly 700 feet below ground! Now that’s how you do an opening!
After that we wake up with Tom, a cop who is in the hospital because of a bad drug deal. I know you’re thinking “undercover cop!” but no; Tom is a dirty cop and the deal that went bad was between him and one of his suppliers that were up to no good! He wakes up with a man named Peter Hopkins explaining that he’s in deep shit and gives him his card to talk to him when he can't swim anymore. Tom flees the hospital and heads to his favorite drug/prostitute bar to get a quick high before he realizes just how screwed he is. He decides to take Peter up on his offer, but what he soon finds out is that the world he’s just entered is a lot stranger than he’s used to.
I have to say I liked just about everything in this story except for Tom and his involvement. A dirty cop that is a drug dealer with a drug problem is not the most likeable character surprisingly enough. Not that I hated him, but it’s really obvious that his character is going to go down the road of redemption and that’s he’s going to be really “special” in the end as he plays the reluctant hero. Suddenly he’ll do things that supporting characters could never do and so and so on. That’s the part I disliked because it was all so obvious. What writers Chap Taylor and Peter Johnson do well is their take on the tired fairy tale story; they give it a darker modern twist. Even though the book is supernatural based the elements are so grounded in reality that I believed it over the drug dealing cop angle.
The art is solid and I’m really glad that I can consistently say that about Aspen’s products. They’re really a company that understands that story and art need to have a balance and even if they don’t always find it, it’s clear that they’re always trying. Artist Michael Ryan creates a visually striking world that captures what I said about the writing; supernatural based,but grounded in reality. The only thing I took an issue with was having Tom runaround town with his head wrapped. I’m sure it was in the script, but it was just goofy to see the main character wearing so much gauze around his head.
Haunted City comes out on the 12th, so you’re being given enough warning that it’s worth picking up. What it lacks in concept originality it more than makes up for in story and execution. There are a lot of #1 issues out right now, but frankly this is a good one to pick up. Be sure to check out our first look of it as well.