Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever is going to read really well in trade form if the complete lack of pause between the last page of #1 and the first page of #2 are any indication. Instead of any recap or establishing shot, the thing just continues as if there hadn’t been a month between the cliffhanger and the reveal. That’s how Robert Kirkman does it in The Walking Dead, too, and that guy’s about as successful in life as Mike Mignola. Coincidence?
When I wrote about the previous issue of Witchfinder, I wasn’t exactly keen on Mignola and John Arcudi’s story as much as I was on John Severin’s art. But I know not to judge a miniseries based on its first issue, and especially not one where there’s paranormal investigation to be had.
You see, I had a love/hate relationship with that J.J. Abrams TV show Fringe — just when I was about to finally write off the show as middling and condescendingly written, the writers would drop some high-concept pseudoscience craziness and I’d be won over until the next episode, where it’d have to prove myself again. Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever employs nothing as wild as using a ketamine and LSD cocktail in a sensory deprivation tank to read somebody’s mind, but a creative enough high-concept idea is enough to keep me reading.
In Witchfinder’s case, it’s a white woman who passes her witchcraft as Christianity to scare an Indian tribe into worshipping her. It’s a cool idea and, as far as I can tell, it’s not even a plot point — just a bit of scenery for Mignola and Arcudi to paint their world a bit. The world of Hellboy is full of supernatural things, and the Old West is dangerous territory, so the marriage of the two — where you can just ride out into the prairie and come across a witch who’s subjugated an entire tribe — is a brilliant idea.
There’s a lot of storytelling in this issue, too — the witch Eris details her origin, Morgan (Grey’s companion on this adventure) tells her real origin, and we also get the origin of our eponymous witchfinder, Sir Edward Grey. Grey, while not the most distinct protagonist I’ve ever followed, is still fun to read because he is a man of action. He gets into a fun little saloon shootout in the first issue, and even his origin involves him fighting a werewolf as a 12-year-old. It’s a good inversion of most American fiction, where the Englishman is prim and proper and just a bit befuddled. In Here, our hero is akin to a pulp hero as written by a British person, not an American’s perception of a Brit. And it’s not like they don’t have an opportunity to make him as such — Grey’s companion is Morgan, a gruff Sam Elliot type, and it’d be so easy to play Grey off of him as a bumbling ninny.
Severin’s art remains consistently great as it did in #1, but in this chapter he finally gets to draw some scary supernatural stuff, and he’s quite good at it. Despite his photorealistic linework, he draws an angel as a supernaturally bizarre Sandman figure, a fantastic werewolf and what may or may not be a reanimated corpse. After a fairly mundane (i.e. “no monsters”) opening chapter, this one really ramps up the scary factor.
And, once again, Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever ends on a cliffhanger, but I have a feeling that this time it won’t be a fakeout. The third issue will surely be the one where it gets really good.