Witch Doctor caught my attention earlier this year when it was featured prominently as a preview in an issue of The Walking Dead. As the first non-Robert Kirkman created title out of his Skybound imprint of Image Comics, the new four issue miniseries by Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner probably gained a solid sampling just on the strength of that exposure alone.
Now we get to see if Witch Doctor can stand on its own without Walking Dead propping it up.
The first five pages of the book are actually the strongest, as Seifert quickly establishes the world of Dr. Vincent Morrow, the title character who specializes in treating supernatural aliments. Apparently, possessions and other supernatural phenomena are common place here and Morrow is uniquely suited to fight them. What's striking about his character is the glee with which Morrow takes to his work. He doesn't seem to fight the paranormal out of any sense of right or wrong. I think he just enjoys it.
The early atmosphere laid out in the book does a terrific job of setting the stage. However, on the sixth page, Ketner's artwork starts to become inconsistent. The backgrounds remain striking throughout, but Ketner's figures seem to be poorly rendered. The characters look as if they were amateurishly drawn compared to the rest of the book. Morrow's smug arrogance and his almost sick delight with his work does come through Ketner's expressions. The rest of the characters don't fare as well.
When it comes to fully grown phobophage (demon), Ketner really delivers a striking image that seems at odds with the human figures on the same page. Clearly, the humans and demons are meant to be from different worlds, but the way they appear on the page makes it seem as if they were drawn by two separate people. I don't think this was a stylistic choice as much as it reflects the artist's shortcomings.
Seifert makes up for most of the flaws in the artwork with his fun and engaging story that's actually over by the end of the issue. The plot revolves around Morrow and his associates Penny Dreadful and Eric Gast, who appears to be the normal person in the cast. It's not clear what Penny is supposed to be, but an early sequence in which she transforms her hand into a tranquilizer device is intriguing.
Morrow's enthusiasm for his work is also infectious. He even goes from massive overconfidence to a more frank assessment when his task of expelling multiple demons from a young boy turns out to be hopeless. It's also a welcome development when Morrow can't actually free the boy as promised. He's simply not as powerful as he pretends to be. Morrow may not even be as skilled as he likes to let on, but his solution to the problem is innovative. And to give credit to Ketner, it's also one of the better visual moments of the book.
There's a lot of potential in Witch Doctor that isn't fully realized yet. In the hands of a stronger artist, I probably would have enjoyed the issue a lot more. But Morrow and his companions are characters I'd like to see more of in the future. If Seifert can flesh out his cast and their world, then Witch Doctor may stick around well beyond this miniseries.
Crave Online Rating: 7/10