Staff: Vincent Ferrante, Scott & Victor Dominicis
It rises above the preconceptions I had going in.
Wow, I seem to get into a lot of mythical beast hunter style comics this month. The last two were werewolf hunters and vampire hunters (Happy Halloween I guess). But that brings me to an interesting point point- we see this kind of thing a lot. I guess it goes back to characters like Professor Abraham Van Helsing and the like (lets be honest- it goes back WAY father but not in such a direct way). There is something very captivating about man conquering monsters. At it’s core it’s about man conquering himself and the fears that lurk in the dark. The tag line of this comic is, “Witch hunts aren’t about witches. They never were”. A powerful message and it sets the tone well for this comic. So with that in mind I am hoping Witch Hunter #1 from Monarch Comics cast a spell on me!
The art isn’t professional grade, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t decent. Something I really appreciate is that the first half dozen pages of this comic have no dialogue. We are introduced by a piece of parchment that says a family is wanted for witchcraft then we are told the story entirely visually. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. I keep saying that comics are a visual medium and takes advantage of this. However, once this ends- we take flight 114 to exposition town USA. We got what happened, we didn’t need an explanation. It almost counteracts the beautiful introduction. Otherwise, the art direction is rather inspired. Some very creative designs that keep the reader guessing if the creatures you see are masks or actual otherworldly entities during a masquerade scene. Even when the comic goes farther into fancy, they retain the creative character designs and build a very strange world. I rather enjoyed the character designs in a madam’s house. It felt like something out of one of Gaiman’s Sandman comics (which are fantastic by the way, so that is high praise).
Something of note is that I really didn’t like the protagonist’s character design. His outfit feels really disjointed. It swings from superhero to fantasy witch hunter. I guess that is the point but they clash a lot. The color pallet just doesn’t match. The purple and white looks fantastic but the dark blues & browns of the rest of his costume are way more down to earth then the “high fantasy” aspects of his outfit. I wish they would go one way or another with this because the basic concept has some real potential to it. The random white eyebrows on the mask I both love and hate. It gives him a mischievous look (which fits him) but sometimes it gets in the way of the character emoting. It reminds me of those pictures where people have drawn eyebrows on dogs a little bit.
Lettering wise this comic is hit and miss. The initial parchment with some text on it was abysmally bad. The in panel dialogue is legible, but a bit hard to read on occasion (the character width was a bit thin). On page 13 we also get this weird interruption where they stuck the credits. It is very distracting and I can’t imagine why they didn’t just do a credits page near the front. Add to that the near illegible nature of them (the thin white characters get lost on the dark blue background) and it is just a jarring stab to the eyes. The last eye-gouger is the name of the next comic on page 38. It looked like someone vomited all over the font and they just decided to use the colors they found it in to make a gradient. Come on! You guys are better than that!
The dialogue isn’t bad. It has some genuine brilliant moments, (“…and bring some milk and chocolate chip cookies.” “Why? Does he need cookies to find my daughter?” “No, he just likes them.”) but then it falls into mediocrity with some very cliche lines. A lot of “witty” characters (Nightwing, Spiderman, the Robins, Gambit, etc) fall into this trap. They try to banter but it just falls flat when a line doesn’t work. It makes them seem like their quips are coming from a place of ignorance rather than intelligence.
The ambiguity of the nature of some characters is a strong point. We are given this fantastic world and we are never sure if we should be employing suspension of belief or not. Are the witches evil? How about these random rich guys? Is witch hunters good or just in it for the money? It seems like no one has truly clean hands. Sometimes it seems like the comic doesn’t know, but I am giving it the benefit of the doubt that it will build upon this in future issues (I only review the 1st issue of comics).
So to recap, decent art, great use of that art, hit or miss lettering, inspired character design, lackluster protagonist design, dialogue that wavers between great and uninspired, and a story with some fun elements to it. I actually enjoyed this for the most part. I don’t know if “Witch hunts aren’t about witches. They never were” really describes this comic. It is totally about witches, magic, and their persecution. Hey, it’s free. Give it a read!