Aspen wants to welcome you to Manhattan, the biggest haunted house in the world.
Haunted City #1
Children are going missing in Manhattan and their bodies are turning up in very bizarre places. Our hero Detective Tom Whalen wakes up in a hospital bed after surviving a bullet to the head. He meets the mysterious Peter Hopkins who offers him his card and tells him he can wash away his troubles if the good detective can help him. At the site of the latest body Hopkins and his team find a strange artifact and before he can investigate further he gets a call from Whalen. Together the two men travel to seek answers from a young Rabbi, but before they continue their search Whalen demands to know the truth about what’s going on. Hopkins tells him that he works to protect Manhattan from supernatural forces and this leads to Whalen leaving him, believing Hopkins to be mad. On his way Whalen notices the man who shot him and chases after him. He looses him when he witnesses an apparition in the middle of the street. Elsewhere in the city another young child is being prayed upon and that’s the book.
With it’s enticing tagline Haunted City draws you in, however it may not be able to keep your attention. Here we have a book that is on the one hand full of potential and beautifully drawn, but on the other it is lacking decent characterisation and, crucially, originality. Co-writers Chap Taylor and Peter Johnson throw in some wonderful ideas into this supernatural book, for example the fact that everyone that comes through Manhattan not only bring their hopes but a few bring their nightmares. It’s a beautifully simple idea which adds a great backdrop as the spooky goings on can originate from any culture and this gives the writers a wide range of superstition that they can draw from. Also the fact that we see that not only the Christian or Catholic church as a go to place for information and help, but so are other religious institutions (with Judaism being shown in this issue)and this adds more scope to the book.
However the book peppers these little fun ideas into a narrative which most people will be familiar with. We have a secret organisation that has more influence than law enforcement, a washed up cop who doesn’t believe in things that go bump in the night, being offered a job with said organisation and a woman who is clearly going to be as kick-ass as Buffy. It’s a real shame because the book is clearly going down the ‘supernatural detective story‘ route and it could succeed if it was going to be an intimate portrayal of superstition in the back alleys of Manhattan, but with the adding of the secret organisation is just takes the edge off. Also all the characters are stock archetypes which adds to it’s lack of originality. The fact that Hopkins is mysterious is a given as he heads up the supernatural defence squad (although he is forthcoming with Whalen about his occupation), the inevitable kick-ass girl is too predictable for words as she will more than likely train Whalen and get romantically involved with him. But the biggest problem is Whalen who has so little to do and say that isn’t a wise-ass comment. This leads to him coming off as a little one dimensional. Adding a drink and drugs problem and a bent cop background does not constitute as characterisation and if he is supposed to be funny this reviewer obviously doesn’t get his sense of humour.
But it isn’t all bad as the always fantastic Michael Ryan is on art duties. Teaming up with colourist Kelsey Shannon, the pair of them produce a book that certainly looks the part. The colours are muted and there is a sufficient amount of shadow which is in tone with the books subject matter. The apparitions are both haunting and bright which allows them to pop off the page. Ryan does great facial work as all the characters look great. There are some great lighting effects with the book and it almost seems like the look of the book could easily be translated to a TV screen.
As a first issue the book sets itself up well, showing potential future plots, clearly stating the premise and introducing us to the major players of the book. But the problem is that it feels like a road well travelled and even with a few interesting ideas and some great art it doesn’t manage to sell it’s self.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|It looks sufficiently dark for the subject matter and has some sparks of potential||Unoriginal, uninspired characterisation and an annoying main character|
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