OLD HAUNTS #1
Written by: Ollie Masters and Rob Williams
Artwork by: Laurence Campbell
Colors by: Lee Loughridge
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Publisher: AWA Studios
Ghost stories are nothing new to the world of comics. In recent years we’ve even seen an uptick in modern ways to tackle this subsection of the horror genre with series like Infidel and Something is Killing the Children — both of which are spectacular — but, even then, there’s still an inherently physical manifestation of the horror presented in the story. Thankfully, there are creators in the world like writers Rob Williams (Judge Dredd), Ollie Masters (The Kitchen) and artist Laurence Campbell (Punisher Max) to bring us something entirely outside the norm, and a story much more dastardly, with their upcoming series Old Haunts from Artists, Writers & Artisans Studios (or AWA Studios, for short). Based on the first issue alone, horror fans are in for a stunning genre-bending surprise.
Old Haunts #1 finds itself in a cozy little spot somewhere between horror, crime, and noir from the get-go as Alex, Donny, and Primo — our three middle-aged “protagonists” — reunite to unwillingly relive their past ties to organized crime throughout Los Angeles. As they all wax nostalgic about the efforts and crimes that got them to where they all are now, it’s very clear that all three of them are neither at peace, nor happy. But perhaps that’s just from all the skeletons in the closet that edge ever closer to revisiting them in the most eerie and supernatural of ways.
There’s something to be said for the harsh and clinical way with which Masters and Williams have handled the script. Though the first issue doesn’t directly dive into what horrific acts that the characters have done in order to get to where they are, the casual banter surrounding the subject and gruff American gangster personas — think Al Pacino and Joe Pesci — that surround the characters make it very clear that, while the devil may be in later details, these aren’t characters to be lauded or rooted for. What good is a story without someone to root for? Well, I guess our creators thought of that, because a secondary plot involves a federal agent with a vendetta and a few bones to pick with these gentlemen, giving readers a glimpse into a particular grey area of an antagonist for later issues.
What makes Old Haunts unique, however, is the subtle inclusion of horror throughout the story. This issue is oozing with eerie visuals and noir aesthetics as Campbell harnesses huge swaths of thick inking that not only provide an incredibly unsettling vibe for the city, but a way to underscore the intensity set forth by the characters; countless bodies litter the ground under the Los Angeles hills because of Alex, Donny, and Primo, and Campbell proves the perfect artist to bring this sort of atmospherics and foreshadowing to the page. It has to be said that the artwork is made even better by colors from Lee Loughridge, as the landscape shifts between hot and cool tones which provide a stark contrast to the dreary, sinister inks from Campbell.
Overall, Old Haunts #1 proves that it’s setting up for something big. While this first issue acts as more of a set up for further issues, readers who are interested in the supernatural and crime fiction will be scrambling to find out where the next puzzle piece of the story will fall.
Old Haunts #1 by Rob Williams, Ollie Masters, and Laurence Campbell will be available as of May 6th, 2020 from AWA Studios.