By: Brandon Seifert (writer), Lukas Ketner (art), Andy Troy (colors)
The Story: With Penny out of action and Dr. Morrow fatally ill, it’s up to “everyman” Eric Gast to save the day.
Quick review: The Witch Doctor series has climbed to a pretty high point in my monthly reading stack. It’s one of those rare comics that I just KNOW is going to be good before I open it up. The story will always be clever and funny and the art will always be sumptuous. As such, it’s one of the few comics that I just sink into and read without a lot of note-taking about the direction of the plot, the plausibility of characters’ actions or flaws in the art. That simplicity doesn’t mean it’s “the best” comic out there; there are a lot of comics I enjoy like The Unwritten or The Walking Dead or Punk Rock Jesus that cover some challenging material and make you “work for it”. Witch Doctor is more like Saga: Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
But, since this is a comic review site, it does seem fair to offer a few words about the issue itself. To recap where we are with the action: At the end of last issue, Dr. Morrow, Penny and Eric Gast had gone to confront this gang of magicians who had infected Morrow with some nasty, demonic parasites. The fight went badly as Dr. Morrow and Penny were taken out, leaving Gast all alone against the gang. This was a nifty story twist as Gast has always been our “everyman” in the story. We kinda see this weird world with horrible monsters and magical powers through Gast’s eyes. And, even though everyone always underestimates Gast – since he has no “powers” – he’s usually able to help or save the day when the powered characters run into trouble. Yay for regular people with big hearts!
Of course, Gast saves the day but makes the questionable choice of taking Morrow’s comatose body to Morrow’s ex-girlfriend for treatment. This scene leads to some good quality humor (the ex answers midnight callers in a lab coat, not a bathrobe) and also some pseudo-medical stuff that has a solid veneer of plausibility. Witch Doctor always credits a “Medical Consultant” (Karen Andersen) on the inside cover and that expertise helps a lot. It isn’t so much that Witch Doctor reads like a medical procedural, but more that there isn’t anything glaringly wrong with the facts that are stated. Nobody every calls anatomic features or lab equipment by the wrong name and all the weird demonic possession things that happen seem somewhat plausible. Anyone who reads my reviews on this site knows that I loathe comics that play fast and loose with easy facts, so it’s nice to see a comic that took the minor step of letting someone knowledgeable read the script before publication. In my book, that kind of fact-checking is one of the things that separates professionals from people writing fan-fiction.
Artistically, Witch Doctor is on a really high level too. Lukas Ketner is just a beast. His draftsmanship has a very old-school quality about it. I’ve said it before, but his work wouldn’t be out of place in an old issue of Creepy even though he has som modern touches. His work is probably a little more cartoony than those old masters, but it’s still nice to see a guy who isn’t afraid to get out his brushes and do some fine-line shading of a page. Ketner’s shading really does remind me of Bernie Wrightson. It just has this organic property about it and that’s important when the page revolves around slavering demons. A tip of the cap also to Andy Troy. This is a gloriously colored book.
Conclusion: This is one of my favorite series. Honestly, it’s right up there with Saga. This was another great issue.
– Dean Stell