Witch Doctor is a title from Image Comics that is coming out in limited series and one-shots. It is from writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner and published under Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint at Image. So far there has been a #0 issue, the Witch Doctor 4 issue series, Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation a one-shot and the recent Witch Doctor: Mal Practice six issue series.
The World of WD is a simple and cool premise, the universe is a “living body” and all the vampires, zombies and horrible monsters are parasites, bacteria and viruses infecting it. Showing that they know their classic horror the books creators have many of creatures ride into the universe as “lice” on the bodies of The Great Old Ones from the H. P. Lovecraft stories. The Old Ones entered a sleep like state after arriving in the WD universe. There are also Fairies and other creatures and items of legend as well as other “people” who are not in the WD universe proper but can be contacted and bargained with.
To combat all the magic related ills there is a group called Mages Without Borders and the title character is one of them. His name is Dr. Vincent Morrow and he’s a jerk, Morrow is a combination of the Doctor from Doctor Who and Dr. Gregory House from the show House M.D. add to that mix the fact he knows that he is the one chosen to stop the end of the world. And the people who run MWB really can’t control him because of that.
Morrow has a new assistant named Eric Gast who is a paramedic and ex-military of some type. Gast is new the whole world of magic but is a fast learner (when Morrow can be bothered to explain anything) and keeps his head on when it all goes crazy around him. The last member of the core cast is Penny Dreadful, a collage age girl infected with a magic parasite that incredibly powerful and dangerous. She can regenerate, secretes a venom that knocks people out, has super strength, can track creatures etc. Morrow has no idea what the creature in Penny is but they have a deal she helps him and he keeps her fed (vampires) and doesn’t attack the creature.
Morrow was a medical doctor at one time but something seems to have happened that ended that and now he’s a mage that applies a medical view to dealing with monsters. He also has several item of power to help him including the Holy Grail and what he calls his scalpel, which is in fact Excalibur. That is the reason MWB can’t really control him, anytime they start to cause him problems he jabs the sword into something and challenges them to pull it out, and at one point he even tells Gast slashing only, if you stab with it the thing gets stuck and he has to go pull it out again.
The #0 issue and the first series set up the universe, explains the rules and introduces the characters. The issues are really a series of interlocking one issue stories that seem to be setting up a huge over-arching epic. The Resuscitation introduces a love interest for Morrow, Catrina Macabrey a pathologist/necromancer who is possibly a bigger jerk than Morrow. It also deals with what happened to the gods of legend in general and Osiris in particular and sets up the Mal Practice series.
Mal Practice deals with Morrow being infected by a parasite that only goes after magic users. This is part of a plot to get Morrow to give up something of real power. While dealing with that he is also hunting for two very different monsters that have taken to hunting together even though normally they never would. It also shows off the more mundane (if that can really be applied here) part of WD’s magic world. You get to learn a LOT more about Penny and Gast. On top of that it has what I’m certain is the most unique way of foiling the bad guy in the history of comics. It also introduces The Surgeons who are really creepy
Brandon Seifert is crafting a well thought out universe with rules and a realistic approach to magic monsters that is refreshing, he never pulls the abra kadabra crap to get out of things, you are shown the limits and Seifert never goes outside of them. Lukas Ketner’s art is perfect for this book, he nails the combination of gothic horror, modern world and Cthulhu monsters. Part of the reason this isn’t a monthly book is Ketner’s art is too involved to complete a book every month and really it’s so nice it really doesn’t matter if it takes longer.
This book is a nice combination of horror, action and dark humor. So while Morrow is a jerk, he’s still likable and deep down a good guy. The cast is interesting and promises to keep you wondering about exactly who or what they are for a long while. Everything that has been put out to date will be collected in two trades.
As a side note if you want to hear Brandon Seifert talk in depth about Witch Doctor go here: http://thetaylornetworkofpodcasts.com/2012/11/25/comic-book-road-show-brandon-seifert/ but a word of warning! While I listen to many of the podcasts on the Taylornetwork the vast majority would not be Podcasts My Mom Should Listen To. As I recall this one was fine but it is possible I forgot about something so headphones might be a good idea. If you don’t mind some language and such you can find some great interviews and reviews there.