It's fun to wonder which came first: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi wanting to write a western-themed "Witchfinder" mini-series and Dark Horse hired John Severin, or someone at Dark Horse heard that Severin had a hole in his schedule and Mignola and Arcudi quickly said, "We'll write a western-themed story for him!" (I suspect it was the former, but it's an entertaining idea to picture the latter.)
Whatever the reason, Severin drawing a supernaturally themed western comic is almost always good in my book, and "Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever" is no exception to that rule. Here, Sir Edward Grey is dropped into 1880s Utah, on a stop-over for the evening when he discovers a mysterious burned down church with arcane symbols. And, being a witchfinder and all, it's not long before he starts investigating.
From the very first page, Severin's art draws you in, from the plains and scrub grass that the carriage is rolling through, to that initial glimpse of the church's burnt-out shell, barely standing upright. There's an astounding amount of detail here -- you could count blades of grass if you wanted to -- and Severin continues deliver an old-world, craggy look to his art that for whatever reason just makes you think of earlier days. The scenes within the saloon are fantastic, with a wide variety of faces and clothing, but all the while still looking firmly rooted in the proper time period. When things start heating up and the shoot-outs begin, I love that Severin expands the layouts to two-page spreads, as if the world itself is opening up and giving us a closer look. Elements as simple as smoke from the old pistols look great, and the accusatory looks on the locals' faces are also dynamite. And when things start getting creepy, like Edward uncovering part of the mystical circle within the church, it's a reminder that Severin is just as good with the otherworldly, too. Severin is a real living legend, and him drawing "Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever" should, quite frankly, be a big deal.
The story itself by Mignola and Arcudi is fun, if off to a slightly slow start. There's a good chunk of exposition delivered here, so hopefully now that's out of the way and things will get rolling a bit faster. Still, it's an entertaining opening, and for a supernatural-themed comic, it's fun that the big threats in this first issue involve pistols and fists rather than pentagrams and fiends. And with the new shift in location, it's good that this second "Witchfinder" comic is showing that it's not afraid to be far-reaching in terms of what it can tackle. This isn't a series that's going to be locked into one specific location.
"Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever" #1 is a good beginning, but while the script is just fine, it's the art that ultimately knocks it out of the park. So long as Severin's on board, you know that this comic is going to be a winner.