Thee Comic Column #20: Witch Doctor Mal Practice

image courtesy of imagecomics.com

Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner’s first Witch Doctor series, published by Image Comics’ Skybound imprint, was one of my favorite new series in 2012. Combining medical drama with a real grindhouse feel (think House M.D. meets Evil Dead and you’ll be in the ballpark) Dr. Vincent Morrow, Occult Physician, cuts a swathe through a gaggle of demonic entities, baby-abducting Faeries, Fish People and an otherwise odd assortment of psychic and spiritual parasites. There’s a big-picture arc going on behind the scenes as well, one that loosely ties Witch Doctor into the writings of early twentieth century horror author H.P.Lovecraft, only here it’s done in a way that uses Lovecraft’s beloved Olde Ones mythos to bolster the creators’ own original Universe, rather than just telling stories within the already established (and overpopulated) toybox Lovecraft bequeathed to us almost a century ago .

Between the original and this new series there was a one-shot titled Resuscitation that, while a stand-alone story, ended with a creepy little teaser of where things are going for the Doc and his pals. Mal Practice picks up right where that teaser leaves off. After a brief tussle with a posessed child the Dr. goes out for a drink and ends up bringing home a woman that… well, let’s just say that infects him with something bad. This isn’t an STD warning story though – in Morrow’s world he’s more likely catch some kind of bizarre demonic infection, and that’s exactly what happens.

Witch Doctor is a horror comic, but it’s horror in the Evil Dead 2 realm. It’s gross and creepy but not in a particularly severe kind of way – if one  of the infections or the manifestation of a parasite makes you wince it’s with the wrinkle of a smile on your lips at the same time, and therein lies it’s overall strongest success. Horror is hard to convey in a comic. Even Severed, which was one of the best horror comics I’ve read in some time, wasn’t the kind of assault to the senses that a horror movie such as The Exorcist, the Original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween (again the original) is because with a movie, you turn it on and it moves at its own pace. With a comic, you read it at your pace, you flip the pages at the speed you’re able (or willing). Witch Doctor knows this and offsets its pacing by nestling the blood-splattered, horrific moments like freakish little eggs hidden within the procedural of psychic surgery, occult investigation and all-hell breaks loose infestations that Dr. Morrow and his small team handle from book to book. And where the first series played out as three single-book stories that built to enough momentum in its twelve-o-clock hour to culminate into fourth that then set the tone for the beginning of the uber-arc, this new series appears to be a single arc that will hopefully arc into an even longer series to come.

The first two issues of Witch Doctor, Mal Practice are on sale now from Image comics at a paltry $2.99 an issue and issue three lays down on January, 23 so you’ve got plenty of time to buy the first trade and then jump into full hilt on this awesome new series!

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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