Friday, August 12, 2016

Review - Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"Well, it's...there's...something back there you should see, is all."

There are things that go bump in the night, although they're pretty few and far between. Dealing with those things takes a special kind of person and Sir Edward Grey in Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 from Dark Horse Comics is one such person. The issue is written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson, illustrated by Ben Stenbeck, colored by Michelle Madsen and lettered by Dave Stewart.

Sir Edward Grey, occult adviser to the queen, confronts flesh-eating corpses and discovers a temple beneath London. The mystery that compels him the most is what the sinister Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra wants with it—and from him.

Sir Edward Grey is a man familiar with the unfamiliar and Mignola and Roberson do a great job of letting the reader know that. Most of the issue follows him as deals with one event after another, but it's the relatively natural way he does so that really grounds him amidst a world of the supernatural. Mignola and Roberson present him as someone who's not very keen on wasting time when it comes strange phenomenon, yet when the strange is in fact that he's immediately on the case. The issue is paced very evenly because of Grey's approach to life and allows the issue to breathe. And while the underlying, unexplained phenomenon is essentially zombies, both Mignola and Roberson fill out enough of the world around them that Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 doesn't feel like just another zombie story.

The artwork in Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 is sufficiently chilling. Stenbeck renders characters with a relatively simple precision that affords them strong poses amidst Victorian London. Grey is illustrated as a very confident man--confident in both his abilities and confident in the notion that there's nothing he's encountered that will deter him from doing his job. And London itself is reflected as a strong character as well, offering up its architectural history as a means for adding more mystery to the otherwise typical days. Madsen furthers the embellishment of the story through her sepia-toned London, providing an antiquated prism for viewing the story.

Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 is both macabre and hard-working at the same time. Sir Edward Grey is a very talented man who knows who to deal with the unknown, but there are possibly opponents that even he can't necessarily handle. Mignola and Roberson do what they do best in the first issue in setting up the key players and leaving some things unsaid for tension. Stenbeck's illustrations are clean and simple, reinforcing the concept of an unknown world living underneath the streets of London. Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 is a very enjoyable read that sets plenty of things up for a potentially great payoff.

Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 is in stores August 31.


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