Writer: Terrance Griep
Artists: J. Adam Walters, Mike Estlick (colors)
Publisher: Heroic Publishing
The “Return of Dr. Arcane” by Terrance Griep and Adam Walters in Heroic Publishing’s WitchGirls Inc. #4 is a fast paced, action packed drama which quickly gets resolved without delving too deep into characterization. In fact, as the main feature in the book, the creators do a good job of packing a lot of wallop into the 18 pages of the lead story. However, I didn’t really connect with the supporting cast, the spoiled debutante Andrea Avery-Crusoe, who moonlights as the Black Enchantress, or her faithful servant Sig. They aren’t bad characters, one can tell the writer has gone to great lengths to develop their back story, having gone so far as to include a handy “Handbook of the Universe” bio tagged at the end of the tale, but they also aren’t very original, being crafted from the same template as countless other characters which came before them. In fact, I’d have to say that Dr. Arcane owes much to Marvel’s own sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange, and also resembles that company’s other sorcery characters like Dr. Druid. Dr. Arcane feels like a second string Dr. Druid, if it weren’t for the fact I wasn’t completely sure he isn’t an homage to that classic character, rather than some kind of hokey rip-off.
Walters does a nice job of rendering the shadowy antagonist of the tale: an inter-dimensional memory vampire with the mind of child. The monster’s manipulation of “shadow demons” allows for the artist to draw inky tendrils for the protagonist to slice through, but the threat never seems foreboding, mostly because the gag of a monster possessing and talking like a child drowns out any sense of impending peril.
Dr. Arcane has the cool ability of being able to leave his physical body, but the plot point with most potential is left woefully under explored: the Army of cigar chomping teddy bears which the Enchantress brings to life to battle the vampire. These little guys could have been used for a bigger comedic payoff, I’d love to see them as reoccurring characters in a future adventure.
The back-up story is an 8 page reprint of a tale which first appeared in Flare volume 2 #3 and features the mystic heroine Britannia. Will Meugniot’s pencils give it an old school style look even if the origin story isn’t too inspired. I didn’t much care for Walters and Mike Estlik’s cover, mostly because the colors and background are kind of bland.
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