There’s a few tropes in fiction, basic story concepts and setups, that for all the decent things they’ve produced, have started to outstay their welcome. Ok, to be fair there’s a few dozen. But near the top of that list is “person or group of persons secretly investigates paranormal phenomenon including but not limited to folkloric creatures and cryptids”. Look, we all know “The X-Files” was a great show, and anything related to Hellboy is fun on the bun. But “Supernatural” is starting its tenth season. TENTH. Not even X-Files made it to ten, not counting the comic. Point is, we’re starting to reach a saturation point for the paranormal stuff here.
Case in point, “Hoax Hunters”, a comic that seems so desperate to breathe some life into the concept it might as well be hammering on its chest screaming “Live, damn you live!!!”. Case further in point , hook number one: The team is actually the cast and crew of a reality show that claims to be DISproving the existence of paranormal phenomenon. Ok, not bad. But then we’re hit with hook number 2, the cast, which includes a cute chick who can shoot generic energy beams because she was once possessed by a demon (her name’s Reagan. Get it?!), a reanimated corpse (the corpse of Stephen Colbert by the looks of things), a spacesuit full of crows, and a token normal guy. Catch all that? There’s throwing in everything but the kitchen sink and then there’s getting hit in the face with the kitchen sink when they decide “Screw it” and throw that in too.
In the setup alone, the book seems to be trying way to hard to throw whacky stuff at us as if to say “look how creative we are. LOOOOK!” and after a while it’s like, “Ok, great but what are you gonna DO with it?”.
If the spinoff series “Hoax Hunters: Case Files” is any indicator, the answer to that is sweet bugger-all. The first issue is a packed-to-the-brim anthology of eight short stories, most of which only really convey a single, sometimes creative idea, and then end before anything interesting can be done with it. The first, and probably the best of the bunch, is a parody of the worst excesses of 80s and 90s comics, particularly ones involving Rob Liefeld, and a fairly good one at that. Most of the others have painfully simple one-sentence gists, including “Unicorns are actually terrifying” “Superman is a thing that exists” and this critic’s favorite, “Woodpecker lands on spacesuit guy’s head and he shoos it away”.
And among those 8 stories, there’s barely a shred of characterization for much of anyone. From when you pick up the book to when you put it down, you’ll learn almost nothing about any of the characters or what makes them tick. It almost feels like a junk-drawer, just a collection of half-baked ideas the writers couldn’t be arsed into fleshing out. It’s almost the same problem as “Dia de los Muertos”, except at least that had some stories that felt a tad more whole thanks to the characters actually having personalities.
In the art department, there’s nothing overly amazing. The Liefeld parody is strong purely on the basis of how much it emulates everything horrendous about Liefeld’s art, and the unicorn one definitely feels like it has the most style behind it, almost looking like a series of water-color paintings. Aside from that, everything leans toward the generic side.
If you’re already reading the main “Hoax Hunters” book, you’ve probably already had the misfortune to pick this thing up, and maybe even got something out of it. If you’re new to the series, however, give this one a very big pass.