Witch Doctor, Volume 2: Mal Practice by Brandon Seifert

51BSf43LI3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Witch Doctor is a fun, engaging series, and is oft times hilarious in its delivery, but is unfortunately still something I just couldn’t get into on my first run through.

Granted, I had three children clamouring for my attention when I was reading it, constantly asking questions like “Why is she scratching him?” and “WHAT’S THAT!?” over my damned shoulder… but one would think the constant barrage of colour and charism that this book exudes would make me push my little ones aside for a moment.

Or maybe I’m just going to have to give it another read… I’ll be back.

Here, read the synopsis while I’m away.

Dr. Vincent Morrow, specialist in supernatural diseases, is back – but this time, he’s the patient! In the second collection of the hit medical horror series, Doc Morrow himself is targeted by shadowy supernatural forces. With his body betraying him, Morrow races against the clock to diagnose the threats he faces – and to punish those responsible!

– from Amazon

Witch Doctor, Volume Two collects Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation and Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1-6, and thoroughly, but unintentionally, confused me within its first few pages. I felt as if I’d lost something by not reading Volume 1, but not to worry! I have a solution! It’s called “buy volume one and read that first, smartypants!

Seifert writes his characters both wittily and with a very apparent respect for the classic heroes and villains of horror’s past. His comedic delivery is virtually flawless, and is maybe only hampered by the verbose nature of the dialogue that drives everything. This is something readers might really have to dig into a few times before it becomes easy reading fare. 

The art in this volume is beautiful, instantly filling a void between the more modern Gabriel Rodriguez and Bernie Wrightson’s old-school style. As a fan of the funnybooks, I would say Lukas Ketner has his shit together in a massively impressive way, and takes what could be something akin to a relatively tame Lovecraftian sci-fi/horror/fantasy tale, and breathes new life into it.

While I wouldn’t suggest this for younger readers, I would throw down with it a few more times before calling it quits on the Doc. There’s promise here, but for now it’s not my cup of tea.

Witch Doctor, Volume 2: Mal Practice is nominated for a Stoker in the Best Graphic Novel category, and is up against some heavy hitters. It stands a good chance, though, as it’s story driven, has a fantastic staying power, and is one of only two nominated pieces I can see that could easily continue its story and still provide a marked level of entertainment.

C.

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Fatale, Book Three: West of Hell by Ed Brubaker

51HS12RL94L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been following Fatale for a while now. In fact, I can tell you the first time I saw a cover for this series. It was back sometime at the beginning of 2013, maybe the end of 2012, and it was nestled in beside a few copies of fellow new release Revival – a series I am absolutely IN LOVE with. (More on that at a later date)

I was immediately drawn to the cover – a thing of fantastic noir beauty, married with what looked like a Lovecraftian feel. This cover, in particular, made me think of a combination of Ralph Steadman and Ben Templesmith, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, anyone who knows me well will probably tell you how I feel about H.P. Lovecraft. I appreciate his work and completely understand his value in the genre… but he’s not for me. I’m more of a Poe guy – high drama and a lot of “woe is me.” I had to play the Argento/Fulci game here. Sorry.

That said, I usually find myself shying away from things like Edward Lee’s more recent HPL output, even though I’m a huge fan of the Lee. See what I’m getting at? I hope you’re still with me.

But Fatale, despite my initial judgements, had me intrigued for some reason. There are a few things about this title that I’m obviously not immediately a fan of, but there’s something else there – something I still haven’t nailed down, that just reels me in a keeps me fully connected. Is it the story of a beautiful woman embroiled in an eternal struggle? Is it the images that Sean Phillips and Dave Stewart splash so skillfully across the page? Is it Brubaker’s unquestionable expertise at crafting smooth, solid, engaging stories?

I have no fucking clue. What I DO know is I’m a fan, and I have no choice over the matter.

From the dark days of the depression, to the middle ages and the old west, these tales of horror and myth and the mystery of the Femme Fatale reveal secrets even our heroine doesn’t know about yet. Bold and experimental, this is pulp noir horror at it’s finest.

– from Amazon.com

While that’s not much of a synopsis, it’s still a hell of a teaser doncha think?!

Now.. what was I saying?
YES! Okay.

This is one hell of a book, folks! I hate to admit that I usually love my GNs a little more on the bloody, revealing side of the genre (Crossed, Locke and Key, Revival), but there’s definitely something to be said for the shadow-play and ethereal nature of the images and story herein.

Fatale has a long extended arc revolving around the Femme Fatale character and her unrelenting desire to uncover more knowledge into her past, present, and future. She’s been plagued by nightmares, denied answers, and endangered her whole life – and in this issue she’s only that little bit closer to finding out exactly what’s going on.

The readers are treated to a generous smattering of stories detailing Fatale’s interesting past, and brought into a world that reads like a unique piece of work, but pays a good deal of homage to the authors of yore – the aforementioned HPL, and extending all the way to carry hints of Louis L’Amour’s western flair.

Brubaker’s engrossing story, coupled with Phillips and Stewarts’ noir infused images, makes Fatale a definite must-have for anyone who appreciates their horror GNs to be more than pages and pages of flashy gore and relentless Big Bads.

Fatale, Book Three: West of Hell, is available at Amazon, Image Comics, and other retailers.

Colder by Paul Tobin

9781621158622_p0_v1_s260x420Jesus Christ. Just when you thought it was safe to be insane… then in walks Paul Tobin with characters like Nimble Jack and his “dinner” dates Declan and Reece, ruining the whole notion that crazy is fun, and making me want to talk to a mental health specialist. Or not. No, if this is Tobin’s world, it would be safer to be completely sane a boring. Insanity ain’t what it used to be, folks.

Seriously… where do people come up with this stuff? Colder is the stuff of loony-bin nightmares, tempered with a generous amount of armchair psychology and a healthy sense of humour that borders on, er, well… insane, itself.

Declan Thomas is an ex-inmate of an insane asylum that was destroyed in a fire, he has the strange ability to step inside a person’s madness—and sometimes cure it. He hopes to one day cure his own, but time is running out, as a demonic predator pursues him.

– Amazon.com

First off, I have to say that every review I’ve read about this book has been shouting volumes about the visuals of this mean little beast, and while I don’t disagree, I have to say that the story is definitely the showstopper here. Let it be said that Ferreyra certainly does have a way with the pencils and colours, but it’s the power behind the idea of a sort of mental-inter-dimentional travel, and the proposed ability of actually visiting the terrifying worlds that unstable minds create within their own noggins, and are subsequently tortured by, that held my attention.

Crazy is as crazy does?
Moving on…

I thought I was in for something completely different when I snatched the book up and took a gander at the cover. It’s nothing like what I assumed I would be in for at all.

The story itself is completely engrossing, showcasing this author’s ability to create empathy for the mad, and still hand the reader a healthy dose of sheer terror at the aforementioned Nimble Jack. Seriously, he’s one scary-ass mutha’. I haven’t come across a villain so honestly spooky in a long while, and I sincerely hope I don’t for some time to come. I mean, this dude feeds on fear, but I sincerely doubt he intends to be nearly as damned scary as he is.

While the story does take about half an issue to actually get into gear, and then another chapter or two to hit its stride, it doesn’t relent when it finally gets there. Tobin does a fantastic job of explaining Declan’s current mental state, as well as the goings-on of the currently unravelling solution (come book Issue 5) but there are definitely some issues left trussed up but uncooked in the end.

The question as to how, exactly, Declan got to the clink, as well as – if he was in a looney bin for a good reason (i.e.: if he was actually loony) – how did he go from crooked brained to straight in the 5 issue run? I may have missed something integral in the telling, but to me this felt like a big hole that needed some expert filling.

Shut up. That wasn’t meant to be dirty. Jesus… I don’t know what to do with you people sometimes.

Regardless, Colder is a stellar contribution to the genre and definitely a must have for anyone who likes their horror to be both James Wan disturbing, and psychologically terrifying as well.

Shit, if the idea of a bad guy killing you in your dreams was scary as hell to you back in the 80s, you can definitely consider this somewhat of an homage to the NOES of yore, but with a modern, goth visual aesthetic somewhat like a highly polished, more refined, bigger brother of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac.

Genetic Profile: Terrence Zdunich

“And it’s my job, to steal, and rob…”

Terrence Zdunich (Zuh-doon-itch) is a name that you’ll hear me praising time and again. He’s an accomplished actor, singer, writer and illustrator. Born and raised in California, Zdunich has always known that he’s a bit creepy. He began drawing at an early age, and never stopped.

Influenced by graphic novels and a burning need to create, Zdunich started his career as an actor, but his desire or more brought him (along with co-creator Darren Smith) to write a play/musical hybrid stage show. In fact, you might have heard of it.

Credits

  • Co-creator of REPO! The Genetic Opera stage production. Also acted as Graverobber for the entire run.
  • Starred in a REPO! short film, that sadly won’t be seen due to legalities.
  • Creator/writer/illustrator of The Molting comic book series.
  • Reprised role as Graverobber in the full-length feature REPO! The Genetic Opera.
  • Co-creator/writer/star of The Devil’s Carnival.

The Molting is currently (March, 2012) sitting at 6 issues, approximately half-way through the concept and storyline that Zdunich has envisioned. The series focuses on Trevor and Joseph, brothers growing up in Anaheim, California, and chronicles their journey of survival while living with an apathetic father and psychologically disturbed mother. I got my hands on the first 6 issues at ComiCON in March, and I tore through them in a day.

Chapter 1, Guilty Susie – The series starts off in the 1960s, Susie is but a girl at this point, forced to live with the terrible tricks that life sometimes plays, as well as her aunt and uncle. I loathed the adults, Zdunich created very simple, yet powerfully despicable characters in the short span of this chapter. Susie isn’t completely stripped of innocence, as she has her big brother to protect her…mostly. The artwork has a deliberately orange/brown/purple hue, the tones warm but conveying the “ugly” feeling of the overall story. The climax is both chilling and shocking, and just what the hell is in the attic?

Chapter 2, The Happiest Place On Earth – The story fast-forwards itself to the 1990s and introduces us to Susie’s dysfunctional family: her apathetic husband Abe, and her two teenage sons Trevor and the new main protagonist, Joseph. Each character is given enough introductory depth to become attached to, and Trevor is one good deed away from being a hero.

Chapter 3, Ootheca – The female characters are the focus of this story, as we get a glimpse at just how disturbed Susie has become. Think OCD with a side of bi-polar. We’re also very graphically introduced to Sandra, Trevor’s chola girlfriend. This story builds tension in the family, as Trevor begins a hero, and ends the story a felon. The characters have now become familiar and the reader has had time to choose which member of the Pryzkind family they’re rooting for.

Chapter 4, Lethal Raids – The artwork takes centre stage in this chapter, the illustrations are vivid and far-reaching, necessary illustrations that forward the smaller plot of the story. Joseph must deal with bullying and a struggle that many artists go through. The reader is also exposed to a much larger degree of Susie’s psychosis, which I believe will divide readers between loving and hating her.

Chapter 5, Mother’s Day – The story takes place at Hallowe’en, and while Susie again brings the crazy, I have to believe that the title is a nod to Darren Lynn Bousman. This story focuses on Susie’s continued inability to provide a proper home for her family, as well as revealing more of Sandra’s personality and true intentions. While there isn’t as much violence as previous chapters, the overwhelming sense of despair and loss at the climax is undeniable, and squirm-inducing.

Chapter 6, Allied Forces – Trevor and Joseph band together to commit a crime, and while it’s atypical of brotherly role models to encourage theft, Joseph and Trevor bond together under the unusual circumstances. Zdunich doesn’t allow that to last, as the seeds of separation are planted, and alliances are truly chosen. This is the story that truly champions Joseph as the outcast of the Pryzkind clan.

The Molting series is much more than a comic, it truly is a graphic novel. The horror is unique and not always visual (a definite feather in the storytelling cap of Mr. Zdunich). The artwork is gritty yet refined, the colour palette evokes equal parts sympathy and misery, and most importantly the story feels real. I know I’m halfway through the series, and issue 7 can’t find my mailbox fast enough.

I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Terrence while he was in Toronto this past March, and he very graciously answered my questions about The Molting, as well as The Devil’s Carnival, his influences and other topics.

I personally would like to thank Terrence Zdunich yet again for that opportunity, as well as for putting up with my prior fanboying. For more information on Terrence, please visit his website. To pick up your copies of The Molting, visit the store. To gain admittance into Hell, visit The Devil’s Carnival.