ADVANCE REVIEW! Witch Doctor #1 will come out on June 29, 2011.
Crazy people make the best comic books. Just look at Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Frank Miller and, of course, Warren Ellis, though he'll tell you he's the sane one and we're all crazy. Either way, I have Ellis to blame for introducing me to Witch Doctor a few years ago. By which I mean he has a forum and Seifert and/or Ketner posted about their book there once. Sorry if that sounded like a name-drop. I totally didn't mean to fool you.
Witch Doctor is about Dr. Vincent Morrow, M.D., a physician who specializes in the supernatural, who, along with his anesthesiologist Penny Dreadful and paramedic sidekick Eric Gast, makes house calls for things like demonic possessions and other spooky afflictions. The marketing for the comic posits it as "House meets Fringe" which is pretty apt -- if Dr. House regularly used a sword in his treatments and if Fringe weren't condescendingly stupid in its first season.
Dr. Morrow may as well be a Warren Ellis character -- the smartest guy in the room who dresses all in white -- but it doesn't feel derivative, which makes all the difference. Seifert and Ketner released a lo-fi demo version of Witch Doctor a few years ago called First Incision, and the similarities were greater: in addition to all the above, Penny Dreadful was a lot hotter. And a lot of Ellis characters have hot female sidekicks.
Since then it looks like the pair have tweaked their book a bit -- Penny's spookier and appears armed with some Infinity Gauntlet/Witchblade hybrid and Gast has evolved from neckless jughead to a frazzled EMT who still remains his quarterback stature -- and improved their chops over the past few years. Ketner in particular draws his panels with an amazing amount of detail. Look at this creature:
As for Seifert's scripting, it feels well-researched. Well, you pretty much make up whatever occult shit you want, but the medical parts feel like Seifert knows his stuff, and applies it to the occult in clever ways. And research is important for a book like this -- your characters know about as much as you know, so if you want your character to diagnose a concussion on the fly, you should learn how pretty quick. It's great to read a comic by someone who gets it.
Moreover, Witch Doctor is entertaining in the way that only a supernatural medical mystery comic can be, delivering equal amounts of gross demons bursting out of a kid's pores as well as superb comedic timing of opening an umbrella amidst a barrage of demonic mass that doesn't undermine the gravity of the situation. That's hard to do, but these guys nail it.
Witch Doctor marks yet another impressive debut not only from Image, but as the inaugural book of Robert Kirkman's Skybound imprint. It's up there with Gladstone's School for World Conquerors and Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker as some of 2011's truly great comic book premieres. Image has been an interesting, diverse publisher for at least a decade, but this year they're straight-up murdering the competition with their comics renaissance.
Ray Tate also reviewed Witch Doctor #1. Read his thoughts, too!
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book writer, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat.
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