As anyone who’s read my reviews featuring Hellboy can attest, I’m a big fan of the Eldritch horror genre; unexplained terrors lurking just below the normal day to day world? Yes, please. Sir Edward Grey, our titular star of Witchfinder: City of the Dead, is deeply connected to this world — and he’s got a charter from the Queen of England to investigate and dispose of threats to the Empire of a more paranormal nature. That’s the basic premise of Witchfinder, so now we ask the burning question: is it good?
Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Y’all find any witches?
Our issue opens with Grey, a rather prickly sort, as he details one of his last investigations – one that showed the depravity of a human being, as opposed to something more gibbous and howling. He is slowly enveloped in an investigation involving what seems to be Elizabethan zombies, and finds himself knee-deep in one of the most quintessentially British moments of zombie slaying I’ve ever seen.
“ALSO, HOW DARE YOU BESMIRCH THE QUEEN?!”
As the investigation broadens, a cast of untrustworthy characters begins to emerge, including a representative of what might be the coolest men’s club in history – the Heliotropic Brotherhood of Ra – which seemingly set up an evil force… that looks like it really knows how to party on the weekends:
“This is the best bachelor party ever, bro!”
There’s decapitations, skulking and skullduggery, fancy masks, and late night cemetery visits. There’s something here for every creepy fan.
Is It Good?
Overall, this is a solid first issue of a story arc. Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 provides multiple loose threads to start pulling on, strange unexplained phenomena, and an incredibly pissed-off-by-the-world protagonist, who has carte blanche in his society to do just about what he pleases.
The old Sherlockian trope sits strong here, which isn’t a bad thing, but I do wonder how much the recent deceptions by Bumbledamp Cumbistanch (Editor: Yes, that’s really how Pat spells Benedict Cumberbatch) are affecting Grey’s character – as he seems to be “Grumpy English Intellectual Noble” straight from central casting.
One thing I’ll call out as excellent is the scripting. You can actually hear the accents and pronunciation leap off the page, especially in Grey himself, who’s generally medium boil of a temper brings to mind restrained, polite infuriation at all times.
Also, zombies on their own are pretty well done to death – but I think there’s more here, just under the surface and slowly working it’s way through the dirt to the top of it’s burial plot. The introduction of the Brotherhood is a thread we’ll absolutely be circling back on, and with the reader only image of just what kind of shenanigans they get up to, you know there’s a deeper well of ick to work with soon.
I’ll give this a 7 out of 10 – serviceable, a decent beginning, but nothing wows me yet. Worth a read, and if the following installments are solid, the collected edition will make this flow much easier.