‘Old Haunts’ #1: Drenched In Blood, Pursued By Ghosts In The Best First Issue Of The Year

by Richard Bruton

Alex, Donny, and Primo are bad men with a bad past. A past full of blood and death and a past with too many ghosts. This is their tale… the trio of killers and the ghosts that haunt them. And it’s the best first issue I’ve read all year.

A bunch of old gangsters get haunted by their past crimes, literally.

That’s the hook of Old Haunts, and it’s one that’s going to play out deliciously slowly across the five issues of this series.
It’s been a long time since a first issue grabbed me the way Old Haunts #1 did, grabbed me and kept hold of me from start to end. This, make no mistake, is a great opener to what promises to be a great series.

Here, we’re setting the scene, introducing the cast, both the three men and the ghosts they’re haunted by.
Three made men staring down retirement, age wearing on them, and now they’re going to find themselves facing down the secrets of their past misdeeds. All the death, all the violence, all the affairs and lies, it’s all coming back to get them here.

It’s a ghost story, but not one of fog and gaslight. No, this is a modern ghost story drenched in the neon streetlights of L.A., and of the darkness at the edge of town, where the lights fade, where the bodies are buried, and where the ghosts come out to haunt the living.
Suddenly, these men who thought they knew what evil was are finding themselves confronted by something worse than they could imagine.

In this first issue, there’s little happening, something that I’d usually bemoan. Yet, with Old Haunts, the writers and artists spend the issue setting the tone and the mood of Old Haunts and they do it so damn well, drenching the pages with the oncoming darkness about to engulf these men who’ve always thought they knew what darkness was.
It’s a completely different way of doing a first issue, but here, with the carefully crafted work on show, it’s simply a comic you should adore, eating up the pages, looking forward to getting your hands on the second issue, wanting to know what’s going on, how these events are going to play out.

Yes, a lot of it comes from the pen of Williams and Masters, but I’m sure those fine gents won’t complain too much when I tell you that the real stars of the show in Old Haunts are the artists, both Laurence Campbell and Lee Loughridge.
This is one of those books where the synergy between line artist and colour artist just works seamlessly. Absolutely beautifully seamlessly.
Campbell’s artwork is a perfect thing for the tone of this. His old men look old, you can read their lives in the lines on their faces. And his cinematic sweeps across L.A. are quite incredible, beautiful things of neon lights and huge scale. Yet none of it would work anywhere near as well if it wasn’t for the colours that flood the page from Lee Loughridge, incredible colour work that makes each page, each panel, just pop from the page. Between them, Campbell and Loughridge give us the perfect vision of this ghost haunted city.
Over at the AWA Studios site, there’s a web-enabled version of Old Haunts #1 with panel by panel breakdowns of the story in this first issue and a little extra, including some from issue 2 and author notes on the book. Granted, it’s not my preferred way to read it at all, as having the spread of a page, where artists and writers really get to set the pace of their tale, telling it across panels and pages, is far, far better. But, if you’re in any doubt about whether or not to pick up Old Haunts, do take a look and then pick up the far superior print version on 10 June.
It’s just an excellent slow-build modern crime tale, drenched in blood, haunted by ghosts of the dead. And it is simply wonderful.
Old Haunts (Issue 1 of 5) – written by Rob Williams & Ollie Masters, art by Laurence Campbell, colours by Lee Loughridge, letters by Sal Cipriano, published by AWA on 10 June.
Now, in the spirit of the cinematic or televisual tone of the book, here’s a little teaser, panels of what you’ll see in the next episodes of what may become a comic we’ll all be talking about in 2020…

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