"Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
Colored by Michelle Madsen
2016, 32 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on August 31st, 2016
Sir Edward Grey has seen a lot of weird stuff in his service as the occult adviser to the queen. He's grown tired of people wasting his time on myths and hoaxes. You can imagine how annoyed he is when he's summoned to a local morgue to examine a corpse. That anger quickly changes to intrigue when the dead body gets off the table.
This is far from Grey's first adventure into the supernatural, and it shows. He's been hardened by his experiences. When that corpse rises, he doesn't hesitate. He quickly picks up a blade and slices its head clear off. To clarify, he cuts the head in half, severing everything from the upper jaw and above in one fell swoop. The look on his face is one of determination. There is not an ounce of fear within him in this motion as his swing connects with a solid “STHUNK.”
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Artist Ben Stenbeck brings gravity to Grey's character. There's one panel in particular where he's about to walk out of his house where Grey is looking towards the reader. Dark bags show under his dead-set eyes. His face is hardened and resolute. It speaks volumes. Despite having a butler and a cook, he's relatively alone in this world and these adventures. The first time we see him, he's sitting alone in a dimly lit room, surrounded by newspaper clippings and assorted relics.
This zombie angle is only part of the story in Witchfinder: City of the Dead. The other angle, which I'm sure will connect with the undead soon, is a mysterious temple discovered beneath London. It's massive and ancient, not to mention creepy as Hell. There's an immediate feeling of dread as two construction workers make their way down a dark staircase. One explains that another pair of workers came down here already. This dread culminates after they find their lantern broken on the ground and one wonders where they could have gone. I'm not doing this panel justice. It's absolutely chilling and filled with mystery.
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Michelle Madsen's colors go well with the somber tone of the story. You can practically see the dark cloud of fog that's permanently hanging over London. It's as if the color has been washed out of everything around these characters. The only thing that pops out is blood. The red brings a bright splotch of death in all this darkness.
Witchfinder: City of the Dead opens strong, pulling you into Sir Edward Grey's tangled world of the occult. You don't need prior knowledge of the character or his previous endeavors. At this point in his career, Grey is shaping up to be a hardened, skilled warrior of the supernatural, right up there with others from creator Mike Mignola, like Hellboy and Baltimore.