In Review: Witchfinder: The Gates of Heaven #3

The midpoint has been reached, but the Witchfinder is no closer to a solution.

The cover: The elusive Aldous Middengard Sinclair holds something that the reader cannot see as he emerges from a portal into a room that’s littered with ancient relics, many looking Egyptian. The expression on his face has him not happy with what he’s looking at. What it is, how he made the portal, and why he’s acquiring the objects may be answered within the pages of this issue. The only way to find out is to pick up a copy. Great tease of a cover from interior artist D’Israeli. I really like the glow that the object he’s carrying is casting upon him. Overall grade: A

The story: Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson’s middle chapter of this series opens in a surprising place: The city of Akhetaten, 1333 B.C. Young Panya witnesses Meryra telling another that they should remain in Akhenaten’s kingdom. His friend thinks otherwise. “Akhenaten’s days on this Earth can be numbered on the fingers of two hands. Already the heavenly fire consumes him. It is madness to remain here and risk joining him in the flames.” Merya leaves, allowing the man to speak with eleven-year-old Panya. He says, “…none of you understand the true nature of that heavenly fire that (Akhetanten) has named ‘Aten’. One cannot hope to break through the fiery gates of heaven and not be burned.” His speech and exit shocks the little girl. In the present, 1884 at Glaren Manor, Panya tells Sir Edward Grey that she sometimes wonders if her current existence is a dream. Grey asks if she has lived her entire rebirth at the manor. She responds she has and believes that one day she will walk abroad again. This is a great wink at long time readers of the B.P.R.D. books. As Panya and Grey make their way through the manor they encounter a man working an intriguing device and after this Panya reveals why she desired to speak with Grey. He’s surprised by her focus and concern, with her foreseeing dark days ahead. Her final lines on Page 9 are brilliant. Sinclair makes an appearance in this issue, doing something. 13 and 14 reveal something horrific, leading to Grey and Singh arriving later and encountering a trio of familiar faces. The book ends with a monstrous surprise. I continue, like Grey, to have no idea what’s going on, but I cannot stop reading this tale. I need the next installment now. Overall grade: A

The art: Artist D’Israeli really gets to go to town with this issue’s visuals due to the many different settings and its characters. His Egypt looks fantastic. The characters are very dramatic, with the angry speaker being very frightening. I love the layout of the fourth panel on Page 2 with Panya swallowed by the man’s shadow. The close-up of the man in the second panel on 3 is excellent with it foreshadowing part of adult Panya’s tale. The final image of Panya on his page is terrific. And look at the backgrounds on these three pages: they’re outstanding. Adult Panya is a fright, looking like an eternally smiling corpse. Grey’s reaction at the end of 6 is excellent, as he’s not been shown this way in the series so far. The final panel on 8 will look familiar to long time readers, but even to new readers this will be a frightful image. The relic that Grey receives on 9 looks great, but it’s the final image of the page that really stands out — it’s both ghastly and delicious. It made me smile immensely. The character on Page 10 looks insane, which is absolutely perfect for this individual, but look at the person who shares this page: the design of this character has her initially looking sympathetic, but by the end of the page she looks like evil Aunt Bea. The tech on this page and the following two is really neat, with it looking as something that could be built today, but with just enough odd elements to make it look wholly wrong in its construction. Could there be a more typical English scene than the one depicted on 13 and could there be any more horrific image that the top of 14? They are excellent opposites to one another. The reveal of the characters on Page 16 made me cheer. The mob on 18 is well done, with the protagonist looking as though he would be swallowed by the crowd at any moment. The shock on a character on the penultimate panel on 21 is strong, as with the reaction on 6. The book ends with a big reveal and I cannot wait to see more of this character. I’m really enjoying D’Israeli’s art for this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: This book is aged by the colors extremely well by Michelle Madsen. The book is dominated by browns and tans, instantly giving the reader the impression that he or she is reading an old story. That said, the book begins with ancient yellows to show Egypt, suggesting its age and possibly the twilight of the characters’ existence. Grey’s scenes with Ponya have the witchfinder bright due to his flesh, but Ponya’s grays have her intimating she’s an animated corpse. Shocking crimsons and oranges dominate the last panel on 8, as they should. Unearthly blues are used for a device’s actions on 12; they stand out so much from the normal colors of this book the reader will instantly identify the device as wrong. Sick greens and oranges appear on 13 to accompany a creepy image. Notice that the book brightens considerably on 14 with a change of setting, but the browns and tans return on 15 when horrors are revisited. The twenty-first page again goes brighter than the previous pages, but things turn a faded orange on the final page when something is revealed. I enjoy seeing colors amplify a story’s art. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins creates this book’s text which includes scene settings, dialogue, sounds, a quiet chant, and yells. Robins has created a different dialogue font for this book compared to the other Mignola books he’s worked on. It appears a little more primitive than those other titles, which is another way the book visually suggests age to the reader. The sounds are also different from other books I’ve seen him do. They are effective and also resemble fonts that one would expect from a past time. To see lettering add to a book’s tone is terrific. Overall grade: A

The final line: The midpoint has been reached, but the Witchfinder is no closer to a solution. More clues are revealed, a classic character gets a backstory, and something appears. The characters are fantastic, the mystery delicious, and the visuals wonderful. This is everything you want in a book. Overall grade: A

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To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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