Review: Witch Doctor, Mal Practice #4

When we last checked in with Dr. Morrow, he was assuring us all – as well as his nemesis – that there is no cure for his necrotic and very Romanian affliction. But now it looks like he’s got an even more pressing (and… astral?) illness to deal with, and it’s going to take much more than an Aspirin and a nap to get Dr. Morrow out of this fix.

Written by Brandon Seifert
Illustrated by Lukas Ketner

When you have a magical disease, you go to the Witch Doctor. But where do you take the Witch Doctor when he’s the one who needs help? And how far will Doc Morrow’s assistant go… to save his boss’ life?

By far the best thing about this miniseries up to this point has been the amount of action and interest and stuff that Seifert has been able to work into each issue. This chapter is a particularly good example: there’s an incident between Morrow’s assistant and the wily Dr. Macabrey (who, as a caption makes very clear, is the last person Dr. Morrow needs right now); a check-in with our villain Nostrum and his cronies; and most spectacularly, a Fantastic Voyage-type journey through our favourite doctor’s bloodstream.

There’s even some character development along the way, particularly when a moral dilemma turns up in Dr. Macabrey’s office. But is it really character development when a character gets pushed to his moral limits and (possibly) breaks? That’s up for discussion, but regardless, the confrontation is dire and arresting,

And as usual, there’s plenty in the way of subplots and interesting details – so much, in fact, that this issue feels a lot longer than 22 pages, but only in the best of ways. Seifert even has time for little eccentricities of dialogue (would you believe that Dr. Macabrey actually says “le sigh”?) and for one truly terrible pun involving a crawling plant and medical equipment.

It may be that Ketner just has some particularly good material to work with, but the art in this issue is particularly impressive. Of course, it isn’t for everyone: everything is shaded and hatched and gnarled within an inch of its life. But the style suits this universe and its peculiar rules perfectly, and in combination with Andy Troy’s carnivalesque colours, the oddest of things wind up looking really cool. The best example is that voyage through Morrow’s bloodstream that I mentioned earlier: between the colourful, mini-astral-projection of Morrow, the hideous, festering larvae he’s on the hunt for, and the impressive anatomical detail on show, it’s one weirdly absorbing scene.

Then’s there the being that occupies a good portion of the last page, and while the “New Element Shows Up On Last Page And It’s Really Surprising” formula is probably the oldest and most hackneyed device in comics, the visual appeal of this… thing (man, keeping spoilers out of reviews is hard) really grabs the attention.

This is probably the best issue so far in the miniseries, exemplifying just how good Seifert is at keeping a story rolling and weaving in all kinds of intriguing background information. And then, of course, Ketner’s art is rising to the challenge and getting across all this information in a manner that’s both appropriately macabre and concise. Amazingly, it doesn’t feel like this story is getting too big for its britches; things have advanced far enough that two more issues sounds like just the right number to get things wrapped up.

Now let’s just hope things take a turn for the slightly less strigoi-y by the end of it.

Final Verdict: 8.3 – Buy, or add to your trade paperback wishlist.

About The AuthorMichelle WhiteMichelle White is a writer, zinester, and aspiring Montrealer.

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