"Hoax Hunters: Book One: Murder, Death, and the Devil" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Hoax Hunters #0 - #5
Written by Michael Moreci & Steve Seeley
Illustrated by JM Ringuet, Axel Medellin, and Emilio Laiso
2012, 164 Pages
Trade Paperback released on December 5th, 2012
The Internet has killed the mystery that once existed in our lives. Remember when you first saw that footage of Big Foot walking through the woods? Or that shady picture of the Loch Ness Monster? As technology gets more and more advanced, these kind of myths and legends are disproved and debunked. What if that was all a ploy from the government to avoid widespread panic? You know that people would lose their minds if anyone ever discovered hard proof that a yeti was a real thing. That's sort of the premise behind Hoax Hunters, the comic created by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley. At the center of the story is a TV show called...wait for it...Hoax Hunters, that's dedicated to proving that the world's mysteries are nothing more than elaborate jokes, pranks, or hoaxes all the while fighting to keep them under wraps.
The show works along the same lines as Mythbusters. The crew finds a mystery and sets out to prove it wrong. Instead of figuring out if a guy can catch a bullet or if a wristwatch can kill a man in a car accident, the Hoax Hunters prove that ghosts, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night are nothing but make believe. At least that's what the public thinks.
The team is made up of experts and skilled paranormal researchers. Jack Lawson is a second generation Hoax Hunter, former FBI agent, and current badass leader. Regan Tate was possessed on while filming a movie as a child and now has telekinetic powers. Ken Cadaver is an intelligent zombie that doesn't eat brains (that I've seen). Then there's Murder, the newest member of the Hoax Hunters and my personal favorite. He was an American astronaut that went through a rift in space decades ago. Now his consciousness is scattered through a bunch of crows that live in a space suit. It's the coolest design for a character I've seen in years.
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That's the crew, but what are they up against? Oh, just a mass grave of animals in the the Louisiana Bayou created by a cult leader looking to travel to another dimension. Just an average day for the Hoax Hunters really. The strategy of the team is much more than just "Find the weird thing and punch it." They have connections to other creatures in the area and do the legwork. In some ways they're like detectives trying to solve a case instead of TV show hosts.
This trade paperback entitled Death, Murder, and the Devil collects issue #0, the first story arc, and the stand alone story from issue #5. The introductory comic explains how Murder joined the Hoax Hunters while the story arc deals with the aforementioned dimension-hopping cult leader. These stories give you a good idea of what to expect with the comic. You learn the dynamic between the team and a bit of their backstory. They all have a bit of baggage, but Jack is carrying the most as he's trying to track down his father who disappeared years ago. This is great, but where the book really shines is in the final issue collected here. Set in the 1980's, the comic tells the story of the Jersey Devil and its past of growing up in an orphanage. This is where authors Moreci and Seeley show their range. There are numerous scary panels, but what stands out the most are the touching moments that are brought on with this monster. There's a humanity behind those grotesque wings and cloven feet and Moreci and Seeley bring it right to the surface. Yes, the most emotional comic I've read all year had to do with a monster that killed people. I'm a weird guy.
The artwork for Death, Murder, and the Devil is split between three artists. JM Ringuet handled the #0 issue. Axel Medellin had the next four and Emilio Laiso wrapped up the book. Each of them have different styles, but they all work with the story. Ringuet's work includes the introduction of Murder and the team. He sets the bar with pencils that are a little offbeat. There are several humorous images, but Murder is the star here. From the flashback page showing his ascent into space, which is outlined as a crow's wing, to the panel where the crows come rushing back into the astronaut's helmet, he stands out as the main attraction.
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Medellin gets to play a bit more with several different creatures such as Bones, the goat man, and Durand, the psuedo-Big Foot. He brings in some absolutely chilling pages as the story progresses though. There's a scene where a group of people, under the influence of the cult leader, set themselves on fire. They're standing there staring at the Hoax Hunters, not feeling the pain as their flesh is burned off their bodies. It's creepy. The real terror comes in moments later as a huge deformed monster comes along. This is what happens when you try to travel to another dimension. Pay attention, kids. This thing is one of the scariest creatures you're going to see in comics. It's a gross amalgamation of all the things it's killed, so there are fish scales, bird wings, crocodile teeth, and more mashed together in a painful mess.
Hoax Hunters stands out as a refreshingly new idea in comics. This isn't a boring vampire or werewolf story. Creators Moreci and Seeley are telling stories like with the kind of stuff you'd see years ago on In Search Of... and bringing that mystery back with them. The book has a sense of humor and a bit of heart so even though the team face off against creatures that could easily kill them, it's not taken too seriously.