"Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #4" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Brandon Seifert
Illustrated by Lukas Ketner
$2.99, 24 Pages
Comic released on February 27th, 2013
Dr. Vincent Morrow is done playing around. He's been infected with a Strigoi, which will take over his body in mere hours if he's not cured. In the last issue, he escaped via an astral projection, which was expertly drawn by series artist Lukas Ketner. It's easily the best visual explanation for this that I've ever seen. Anyway, Morrow is fortunate to have the paramedic Eric for an assistant to save his limp body from certain death. Unfortunately, the only person that can help Morrow at this moment is the necromancer-pathologist Catarina Macabrey, first introduced in Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation.
The dynamic between these characters is handled very well, but I can't help but notice similarities between this and Sherlock Holmes. Morrow is Holmes. Erik is Watson. Catarina is Moriarty. This is certainly not a bad thing and Witch Doctor is definitely in good company here. Between the two, I'd put money on Morrow winning in a fight. He does wield Excalibur after all. Catarina is especially interesting in this issue as she's very manipulative. She recognizes that Erik has come to her in an hour of need, so she can use that to her advantage. She's in this for the long haul, so she's not looking to screw over or kill Morrow right now. Down the line though, she can use a favor from Erik to really pull the rug out from the occult physician. It doesn't serve her overall plan if she were to eliminate the man now. Plus, throughout all this, I can't help but think that maybe in another life Catarina and Morrow would have been good together.
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As this issue puts us past the halfway mark of the series, author Brandon Seifert starts to crank up the action a bit more. Things are moving faster as Morrow readies an offensive. Before he can take on the people that have put him in this situation, he has to cure himself. Despite the fact that Strigoi are incurable, he's figured out a way to do it because he's just that damn smart. This involves astral projecting into his own body. It's like Fantastic Voyage mixed with Dr. Strange and it's awesome.
Seifert seems to have a limitless amount of really cool things he can pull from, both medically and supernaturally, that continue to make Witch Doctor a great read. There's no predicting how the story will go because the possibilities are endless. In this issue alone there's the aforementioned astral projection, a vector doll, attempted vehicular manslaughter, brain cysts, and a reference to Jaws.
Although it's impossible not to love Vincent Morrow, his would-be patient Penny Dreadful steals the show. Penny has something dark inside her that she's constantly at war with. She's been captured by the same folks that infected Morrow, which has allowed the real Penny to speak up and warn her captors of the vengeance that her other half is planning for them. It's this scene that's reminiscent of a darker River Tam from Firefly. Imagine if instead of being able to kick ass and shoot guns very well, River had a claw-like hand with hypodermic-like needles for fingers and a jaw that unhinged. Yeah, it would be creepy but kind of cool.
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Speaking of creepy, Lukas Ketner draws the hell out of this book. He keeps up with all of the crazy stuff that Seifert manages to cram into the comic and amplifies it. Morrow's astral projection is like a ghost with six glowing balls floating inside them. I'm sure they have a deeper meaning that I just don't understand. Maybe chakras? Actually, I just looked it up on Wikipedia and there's a picture of a guy with similar colored balls on him so that's my guess. Chakras. Anyway, Morrow floats around with a tether of sorts holding him to his body like a large umbilical cord.
The most disturbing image of this issue pops up as the leader of Penny Dreadful's captors (whose name I cannot remember) gets off the phone with his boss. He's got a monkey on his back...or rather a small demon / devil creature that desperately needs a sandwich. It first appears in a small panel as its long fingers wrap around the man's head. Then the next shot is of the monster sitting on his shoulder, speaking into his ear. This is something that comes out of nowhere and it's such a chilling picture.
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice continues to be a stellar read. The dialogue is fast moving and smart. The visuals are crisp and clean. The characters are always interesting and never dull. My only problem is that this is only a six-issue mini-series and not an ongoing title.