Witch Doctor #4

A comic review article by: Ray Tate

An occult tribunal brought the Witch Doctor up on charges, and the powers that be may suspend his license. His crime? Saving the world from Cthulhu's Deep Ones.

The tribunal mirrors the medical licensing board. Only, unlike in the real world, where a doctor will forfeit his license if he, say, embraced Jack Daniels while wielding the scalpel to inadvertently conduct an impromptu sex change operation, the tribunal actually neuters the magical abilities of a supernatural practitioner. I think that would lead to more drastic effect. Since the magic appears to be part of the person.

The stakes are high in Witch Doctor, and writer Brandon Seifert exacerbates these stakes through the fact that this is the last issue of the miniseries. So, he could end it. That ticking clock ratchets up the tension, and you'r constantly looking for the moment where Vincent Morrow alias the Witch Doctor drops his watch into the patient. You particularly pay attention to Mr. Ghast in the dead pool.

Eric Ghast, the Witch Doctor's assistant, was becoming a little too ordinary. He was becoming like the well-mannered young man in horror films. You know, the guy who's paired up with the girl that the monster or the master of the monster lusts after. Such as the drippy Tom Hervey portrayed by Robert Lowery in The Mummy's Tomb.

Oh, the Tepidity

Seifert decides to amend that oversight without betraying the characterization. 

The Wisdom of Eric Ghast

It's not like Seifert didn't foreshadow the change. Ghast is a big bloke, and the Witch Doctor had to pick him as able assistant for a reason. At the same time, Seifert doesn't forget the fan-favorite Penny Dreadful, the Witch Doctor's "pet monster." Upon seeing the opposition, Penny ran last issue. It was a grand joke, expertly timed by artist Lukas Ketner. She returns at a most opportune time, and that return leads to yet another joke, indicating that Penny is more than a monster. Mind you, don't make her angry. 

Coelomate Deathmatch

H.P. Lovecraft's Deep Ones are rather infamous for raping women to reproduce. This was best portrayed on screen in Humanoids from the Deep, one of the nastiest and best of the Roger Corman films. Seifert looks at a common bacteria for his inspiration and once again corroborates one of the themes in Witch Doctor. What you know to be true is wrong, and it takes a real professional to deal with the occult. This is not a battle for amatuers.

Ah, What's Behind Door Number Three?

The Witch Doctor dopes out the entire situation. His dismissal of magic as a break in the laws of science allows him to combat the menaces. He makes the decision to wipe out the Deep Ones once and for all. His experience gives him the insight to see the world a little differently. To the Witch Doctor, the ocean is a big intestinal tract, and the Deep Ones are the bacteria that thrive there.

No Slouch

Needless to say Lukas Ketner and Andy Troy inject exciting illustration into the adventure and enhance the quirky humor with subtle reactions and superb comic timing -- as with Penny's return and her victory. Their designs for the Deep Ones give the creatures a pathetic quality that figures into the story, and the inclusion of an oddly garbed cult at the end promises more to come.

Ketner furthermore maintained the cerebral that was in Seifert's script. He did this with some wonderful expressions that displayed the brilliance of the characters. The Witch Doctor would ponder and muse. He would eureka and gesticulate like a cartoon character, and Ketner's artwork was absolutely perfect for this welcome addition to the comic book racks. Witch Doctor will return in a one-shot later this year. Don't miss it, and if you can't find any of these issues at your local comic book store, pick up the impending trade.

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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