It seems that many major publishers are trying to dip their creative pens in the murky ink of horror comics. Competition is fierce, to say the least, and writers must constantly come up with new ideas to prove themselves within the tightly knit community. For some reason, Image has always stood out as one of the best horror comic publishers. They know what fans want, not just blood and guts but a brain and a heart too. Image’s Skybound imprint, founded by Robert Kirkman, (The Walking Dead), horror comic icon, brings us “Witch Doctor”, a mini-series showcasing a grotesque and disturbing world where diseases are synonymous with monsters. If you’ve missed the first two issues, have no fear; the mini-series is set in stand-alone episodes, meaning you can still pick up this creepy book (good thing for you since the first issue sold out!). Witch Doctor is an insane comics that would have devout Christians spewing up the Eucharist, and amen for that. Read on for the skinny…
EDIT: “Witch Doctor” issue #3 actually hits stores September 14th, but screw it, it’s still my pick of the week!
“It’s Dr. Morrow’s biggest case yet: ‘The Patient From The Black Lagoon!’ What’s the secret of the Deep Ones? How do they fit in with the Relapse, the Extinction Event that’s coming for humankind? And why are Morrow and his medical staff at each other’s throats? ‘Basically, I’m jealous. Bastards!’ — Ben Templesmith”
Now before I chew off my own leg, so to speak, I’m not saying there aren’t great horror comics out there, in fact there are loads of fantastic horror books. All I’m saying is that in an industry that is moving more and more toward the dark side of the medium, it’s becoming a cumbersome task to create new and innovative stories. Luckily, we have psychotic minds like Seifert to keep things fresh, gruesome, and intelligent all at the same time.
The story follows Doctor Vincent Morrow through various incidents as he travels around Oregon seeking out people who have been smitten by some heinous disease. The world is ill, quite literally, in this comic and Doctor Morrow is not your average doctor (no shit). Rather than scrubbing up for a steady eight-hour surgery, Morrow prefers to use the dark arts and a magical sword, which he refers to as his “scalpel”. Combining realistic medical explanations and witchcraft, Morrow is quite the eccentric character. It makes you wonder if the reason he was booted from the medical community was his unorthodox medical style or his cracked persona. Seifert’s characterization of Morrow is absolutely splendid, and you really get a sense of his lunacy and lonesomeness even though it’s only two-issues deep.
The first two installments Doctor Morrow and team dealt with children (nasty little buggers). One demon-possessed, the other was a creepy bug baby who spoke like an old man. I can’t imagine what’s in store next for the tongue-in-cheek crew, but I’m hoping it will branch outside the realm of children to see how Morrow can handle himself out side of pediatrics.
The artwork doesn’t really need to be spoken of for a long time. Simply, Ketner’s art is nothing short of wonderful, dark, and horrific. It’s a perfect fit with the writing style, helping to capture Dr. Morrow’s character. This is a dynamite team.
This story is, at the same time, a throwback to classic horror cinema and a glimpse into the future of horror comics. If this book doesn’t get extended to an ongoing series, I hope Skybound will at least offer Seifert some sort of deal. Witch Doctor is an incredibly mature debut comic (which makes sense given that he studied under Bendis) and it’s hard to imagine how it could get any better. This is a world world filled with putrid disease and Seifert and Ketner bask in it fervently.