I randomly stumbled onto Witch Doctor and before that moment, the title rang no bells whatsoever even though it had been around since 2011 and is a critical success among fans and critics alike. Even so, I was going to pass it over for some ill-conceived reason, but the premise seemed interesting so I decided to take a gamble and give it a read.
The first issue hooked me and so enamoured was I with this wonderful piece of literature that I immediately caught up on the entire series that same day and buried myself in this world and somewhat lost touch with my own. It was time very well spent. I regret nothing.
Witch Doctor follows Dr. Vincent Morrow, who is a, well, Witch Doctor who deals with everything paranormally medically related from demon possessions to a demonic/vampiric tapeworm infestation to saving the world from the Lovecraftian Old Ones – whatever supernatural issue you might have, he’s your guy. And which Witch Doctor would be complete without his team? In this case, it’s the delightfully possessed/bonded by/with something Penny Dreadful, once a young student and now a Cryptophage (a monster that eats monsters) and a former soldier and medic (now acting as assistant), Eric Gast.
Under the Knife’s plot specifically deals with the good Doctor having to use his particular set of skills when an acquaintance of his introduces him to a rare species known as a “Deep One” which is a humanoid fish like creature that dwells at the bottom of the ocean. From there, things quickly get out of hand and Morrow and his team are put in quite the peculiar situation. Other parts of the book cover demon possession, the resuscitation of the Egyptian god of death and Cuckoo Faeries replacing human babies with their own shape shifting abominations. If that last part didn’t interest you, then you might need to seek professional help… Then again, if it did, you might need to seek professional help anyway.
The story is a bit all over the place as it deals with three core tales, but when it reaches these various places, it tells an incredibly fresh story that is a very welcome change of pace to the same old supernatural dealings we’ve seen in the past. Seifert and Ketner have created this fascinating world with equally fascinating characters that any supernatural aficionado needs to read. Hell, everyone needs to read this. Except maybe that one over-religious grandma of yours that burnt your comic books that one time.
The best part of the book is that it introduces us to this charismatically enigmatic “cunning man” in the form of Vincent Morrow who clearly sets himself aside from any other magical doctor that you might think of and his quips and pragmatic way of dealing with things just makes you like him more and more with each page. In fact, all the characters are interesting, even Penny, who essentially says very little, but the mystery behind her is intriguing; very much so in fact. Brandon Seifert isn’t a comic book veteran, but with his solid writing and brilliant debut of Witch Doctor, he’s on the fast track to legend status.
Art-wise, the book has a very unique look. The art isn’t as great as some other indie (perhaps not truly indie, but somewhat indie) titles, but the style, colouring and overall look works quite well for the tale the book tells. The artwork is moody and the colours rich, giving life to each panel in an incredibly stylish manner. It’s also nice to see how Ketner’s art improves with each page, which shows you that the book was not just “done” to be done with. Time was put into it and it paid-off in the end.
Overall, I truly do love Witch Doctor. It’s one of the best written and stylishly drawn books out there. It might not be in the mainstream audience’s eye yet, but it deserves to be. It beats about 90% (this statistic is perhaps not entirely derived from the proper scientific methods) of the other big publishers’ titles out there and I hope that Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner will be putting us under the Doctor’s magic again in the future.