Doctor Vincent Morrow is like Van Helsing, if House's Hugh Laurie prescribed him a handful of magical mad-scientist pills at the top of every hour. Morrow's lithe. Blasé. Misanthropic. Solipsistic. And pretty damned funny. In the five-issue collection Witch Doctor, Vol. 1: Under the Knife (the first original series from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's Skybound imprint), Portland comics creators Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner's "hero" heals Earth's infected humans, who are beset with demons, cuckoo faeries, gillpeople, and vampires. At his side: beefcake paramedic Eric Gast, patient/helper/strange girl Penny Dreadful, and Morrow's trusty scalpel... the sword Excalibur.
As Dr. Morrow says, "You don't go to a normal doctor for a supernatural illness... you go to a specialist in supernatural medicine." In Witch Doctor, humanity is infected with a scourge of demonic ailments, and it's up to the doctor, an envoy from the Mystics without Borders, to rid humans of their monsterly diseases. This takes the form of exorcism-like rites and dealing with the most ancient of Earth's monsters, the tapeworms and eyebrow mites of Cthulhu.
It's a neat premise. As Seifert says in the afterword, "The really classic, lasting monsters—vampires, zombies, and werewolves—are all disease metaphors." It's thoroughly refreshing to see a hard-science type killing beasties, in a popular culture landscape where the de rigeur warriors are overblown soldiers and moody slayers and everyday Jills and Joes desperate to survive creature-feature apocalypses. And Dr. Morrow is about as clinically wry and dry as one gets. Like the hysterical bit where he treats a baby infected with a faerie—dressed in his Southern gentleman white suit, he picks up the kewpie doll-like infant and administers a robust and jolly roughhousing. "What do you do with any evil baby? You shake it!" I like this guy.
Witch Doctor occasionally gets mired down in some inscrutable medical theories and dips in the jargon pool, but this rocky "wolbachia" and "nosocomial" stretch is but a short jaunt to the disgusting and delightful Biology of Fiends 101. Artist Ketner is a monster maestro, relishing in diabolical details, mandible mechanics, and other anatomical atrocities. Combine his supernatural fieldnotes with the comic timing of Seifert, and the mysterious and rich character of Penny Dreadful—a monster-eating monster in girl form—and Witch Doctor, Vol. 1 is a pretty fun addition to the horror genre, and it only looks to get stronger as we learn more about the characters.