Haunted City #0
(Wonderland – writers: Chap Taylor & Peter Johnson; art: Michael Ryan)
By looking at the cover of Haunted City, one would think that it’s about vampires. But vampires are only one of the many beasts that inhabit this book. Last week, I said Red Wing was a good premise with poor execution. Haunted City, however, has a very cool premise and an equally strong execution.
Haunted City opens with New Amsterdam in 1625. We’re given a few quick shots of townspeople fearfully going about their lives. The opening is reminiscent of The Village, without the crappy twist (or long, impotent camera shots). After a watchman is attacked and defeats a beautiful but blood-crusted vampire, we’re thrust into present day and given a few choice moments from history to serve as exposition for the story. The point of Haunted City, boiled down to its base, is that New York City is full of monsters because it brings people’s fears to life. Immigrants come to New York with their hopes and dreams, but they neglect to leave behind their spiritual baggage. Specifically, Taylor and Johnson mention the Sluagh (dead Irish sinners), the Jewish Golem, Voodoo from Laos, the Sicilian Witch and even David Berkowitz, better known as The Son of Sam, who claimed a demon made him do it.
According to Taylor and Johnson, he wasn’t lying.
To combat this, the NYPD assigns a task force to fight these apparitions. We’re not given much more than that as the comic ends abruptly, one of the only flaws in Haunted City’s debut issue. Fourteen pages isn’t much of an introduction, and issue #0 serves more as a pilot. I wanted to see more of Haunted City. One of my biggest fears is being chased by some demon or monster in a place like New York City where there are so many places to hide but also so many places to die.
The creators seem hell-bent on seeing Haunted City appear in some form, as it’s simultaneously being developed as a television show, a movie, a multi-platform video game and a comic book. I hope it stays in comic book form as Michael Ryan’s art, coupled with Peter Steigerwald and Beth Sotelo’s coloring, make Haunted City visually stunning. There’s an overtone of red everywhere – a harbinger of the violence and fear to come, I’m guessing. We’re only given two quick panels of daylight while the rest of the issue is bathed in darkness, adding to its mood and tone. Their efforts add to the creepiness of the concept, and I want to see more of their drawing. Fourteen pages aren’t enough.
I’d recommend Haunted City because the concept is well achieved. It’s similar to other stories, but it’s different in a lot of ways. I don’t see echoes of other things the way I saw them in Red Wing. Haunted City, while based on shared concepts, feels original, inspired and scary.