“The Horror of Infection never goes out of fashion. Disease doesn’t go away, and it’s always got a new face to scare us with.” ~Brandon Seifert
This comic series is like the Dresden Files with its focus on the paranormal, occult, and monsters all done with style and sharp dialogue, but, add to that, a mad scientist and a huge shot of horror, blood, and a medical background. Break out the needles, scalpels, and other sharp pointy instruments because it is time to dissect creepy crawlies. The strong dose of medicine brings fresh and interesting twists to the exorcist/slayer/hunter fighting monsters story.
The series’ “witch doctor” aka occult specialist aka mad scientist (though he hates being called that) is Doctor Vincent Morrow. His job is to find a cure for the apocalypse --- it is his destiny, and he has the sword in the stone to prove it--- with cases on the side and science experiments to figure out how monsters tick. His assistants are Eric Gast, a paramedic and regular John Doe who finds himself getting in over his head with these supernatural cases sometimes and Penny Dreadful who is also one of the Doctor’s patients. Penny is a cryptophage with a creepy Little Red Riding Hood vibe going for her, a monster who eats monsters with claws that come in handy for dealing with unruly monsters and useful for anesthetizing patients. This medical scream team have a busy first volume dealing with not-so-standard possession and exorcism, fairy changelings, creatures from the Black Lagoon, and even vampires (nothing sparkly here, except the flames).
Witch Doctor is off to a promising start in its first volume. It is a full-package bundle with a solid storyline full of details on different monsters, sharp dialogue, great comic timing, engaging and colorful characters, plenty of action, and stand-out artwork with distinctive style and flair. The medical science focus makes for a unique twist, is carefully thought-out, and is wonderfully developed. There are hints (and mentions of an impending apocalypse) that point to a larger storyline beyond monster cases and experiments. Horror fans should be pleased with the deliciously horrific monsters and high volume of blood. The humor and action balance the story and take it beyond a straight horror going for screams and scares, giving it a similar vibe as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
Look for Witch Doctor: Under the Knife in the VBPL Catalog. Mark Powers’s graphic novelization of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files has a similarly styled story. Mira Grant’s Newflesh trilogy offers more medical horror combinations with zombies (see review of book 1, Feed). For science fiction involving plagues and infections gone wild, try Greg Bear’s Blood Music or Frank Herbert’s White Plague.