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Friday, March 9, 2012

WitchFinder: Lost and Gone Forever. Mike Mignola, John Arcudi (Writers),John Severin (Art) Dave Stewart (Colours), Clem Robbins (Letters). Dark Horse Comics 2012

From the classic Western opening through the superbly crafted story that neatly side steps cliches to the sharp finale this is a great comic. Sir Edward Grey, WitchFinder for the Queen of England is in Utah tracking a man from England. After some trouble he meets up with Morgan Kaler who helps he get out of town. They encounter a young white woman, Eris, who is preaching to the Paiute Indians. Morgan Kaler says that Eris is a witch and using her powers to influence the Paiute. A little later they encounter the man Grey has been tracking and find that he is now a zombie and the story moves in unexpected directions from there. The reveals are cunningly staged, full use is made of the possibilities of the Western setting and Grey being out of his normal element.
With the opening scenes of the book when a stranger arrives in town and asks the wrong questions the sense of the mythical West of the Westerns is superbly established. The rest of the story diligently undermines that prospect as the supernatural threads are pulled together. One of the strongest aspects to the story is the unexpected and clever use of zombies, which are a rather threadbare now. In this story they have a purpose beyond hunger for brains, they are part of a larger plot driven by malice and greed. There is a subtle confidence to the storytelling that makes it a pleasure to read, there is one particularly bold stroke involving the local preacher which could easily have gone horribly wrong. Instead it has a genuine force and subtle agony that gives depth and force to the story. The dignified and easy handling of the Paiute is a joy, it is nice to see them being treated as humans without guilt robbing them of the chance to be as confused as the rest of us.
The cast are first rate, Edward Grey is trying to hold on as events and context conspire against him, Morgan Kaler is wonderful. Sharp, colorful and brimming over with energy he is exactly the right Western hero. Eris is a  dangerous woman who has dark plans and the fierce will to bring them to fruition.
John Severin's art is an undiluted pleasure. He has such a complete mastery of comic art that his work is just an deep pleasure to read and linger over. It never calls unnecessary attention to itself, it serves the story with care and wit , at the same time the depth and detail that fill the pages are just a treat. They give the cast a force and presence, the body language is eloquent. The cast fill the spaces with vitality and physical presence, they relate naturally to the context and the action is staged superbly.
Dave Stewart's colouring is so sure and subtle that it nearly passes by without attention, it works for the story, adding tones and notes to the action.  It illuminates the art and gives it the palate it needs to reveal its power. Clem Robbins lettering gives the shadings of conversation without ever intruding.
Everything in this comic is there to serve the story and it does so with conviction and flair. Each element is worth savoring in its own right as it is the work of a very talented and creative artist, separately and combined they show why comics are the wonder that they are. 

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