Brandon Seifert took the archetypal monster hunter and turned it into a brilliant medical metaphor in his book, Witch Doctor. Dr.Vincent Morrow is a surgeon who very well could have graduated top of his class from Miskatonic University. The good doctor is an appointed agent of the world’s immune system that looks to eradicate the parasitic supernatural creatures that plague the shadows and dark places. I know what you are thinking: the supernatural mingled with the medical field has been done before with Marvel's Dr. Strange. To me, though, Dr. Strange always seemed like science fiction because it was so otherworldly. Witch Doctor keeps the story grounded on Earth and not some astral plane. That makes the story fun and creepy.
Joining Morrow on his duties are Eric Gast, a paramedic and helper, and Penny Dreadful, a creepy little mute girl in the vein of River Tam from Firefly. Gast and Morrow exchange some clever banter as they investigate a gentleman who woke up naked in a tub of ice. The man isn’t missing a kidney; he’s got one that had been transplanted. Please read this book to unlock the mystery because it is so fulfilling.
Morrow’s investigation leads him to a pathologist named Catrina Macabrey. She’s the most excellent foil for the good doctor and the key to a sinister plot.
The occult twists are smart and inventive but never become tacky. Seifert didn’t rely on overused horror clichés; instead, he evoked classic ones and gave them twists that are so interesting without being stupidly condescending. For instance, Catrina uses her unborn fetus as a ‘smoke child’ guardian/familiar.
Although some of the names made me roll my eyes a little,the application of the occult icons made this book so outstanding. The plot was unique and riveting, while the artwork reminded me of the production design on the Stuart Gordon Reanimator films mixed with a Vault of Horror comic.
The bad? There’s not much. My first problem is that the book gets a little dialogue heavy at times. Additionally, there’s a reference to The Princess Bride that made me cringe. The book does so well on its own; don’t slap a blatant nod to something that seems like pandering. It’s similar to what Kevin and Dustin say in their podcast about mentioning Twitter or Facebook in a comic. It dates a book and makes it feel silly. But those are so minimal of issues.
It’s a damn shame that Image charges only $2.99 for this comic because it is worth so much more. I thank Seifert for being an excellent storyteller who clearly didn’t rush this one. The layers and details are so brilliant and fresh that I am hooked on this comic for good. I only wish this one would have been out sooner so it could have made Dustin and Kevin’s best of the year list.
Writer: Brandon Seifert Artist: Lukas Ketner Colorist: Andy Troy Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/28/11