Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 Review, Mildly Spoiled
Mark Waid (w), Neil Edwards (a), Jordan Boyd (c), Marshall Dillon (l)
Roger Ebert once said, “A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it.” I bring that up because, on paper, Mark Waid’s contribution to Dynamite’s Gold Key relaunch (which also includes Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Solar: Man of the Atom, and the excellent Magnus: Robot Fighter) seems like a mishmash of industry cliche. Doctor Spektor himself is a reality TV star, which has seemingly become the last bastion of writers feigning at Saying Something about modern society. More than that, Spektor is a con man magician in the grand tradition of John Constantine and seemingly a dozen others.
And yet, Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult is a solid debut, memorable and interesting in equal measure. Doctor Spektor is the star of a TV show in which he investigates paranormal phenomena – but, of course, in a world where paranormal phenomena is occasionally very real, and often very deadly. So while he often has episodes forcing him to prove that a psychic is a fraud, he periodically faces down a vampire lord in its lair on live TV, making him one of the most popular stars on TV. But there’s a hole in his life, and it’s eating him alive – and it is this hole that makes Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 work. Like Astro City‘s sublime “The Nearness of You,” (a top contender for best single issue of comics ever produced) Spektor is haunted by the memories and love of a woman who doesn’t seem to exist – who never seems to have existed at all. But when an old psychic accidentally forces our world to collide with another, he finally sees the woman of his dreams and begins to give chase. It’s a simple premise, but it’s one that gives the series a lot of flexibility and a very human motivation to its lead, which is necessary if they want to draw in readers unfamiliar with the character.
Artist Neil Edwards fares a little less well. His design work is relatively solid, though he isn’t given much room to really stretch his muscles, but I’m more concerned about his framing. There are two real ‘action’ scenes, and while both are brief, neither of them work terribly well. The first, and the better of the two, finds Spektor confronting a vampire lord with a handful of arcane trinkets. Edwards handles the pacing well, but there’s little sense of movement or positioning – a problem that gets worse in the book’s second brief bit of action. There’s little drama in the mayhem wrought by the ghost-robot-thing, in part because you never know what characters are where and in part because it eventually just seems to fall over and die for no reason. That said, I was similarly unimpressed by the brief, rushed action of Magnus: Robot Fighter #1, and Cory Smith really wowed me when he had the space and freedom to flex his artistic muscles a bit last issue; with hope, Edwards will get a chance to shine soon. Whether he’ll be up to it or not is another question entirely.
Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 isn’t a perfect debut by any means, but it’s still another feather in the cap of Dynamite’s increasingly interesting Gold Key line of comics. I’m a bit nervous about a mid-issue twist that implies crossover coming to the line and I haven’t quite made up my mind just yet on artist Neil Edwards, but Waid’s script is lively, and he manages to make his asshole protagonist not just relatable in a single issue, but bordering on soulful. And that, to me, is the real strength of the comic. It’s easy to give us an exciting adventure in 20 pages, and even easier to just set up an exciting adventure in that time. Getting us to care about a character most of us have never heard of? That’s harder, but Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 rises to that challenge.
My Rating: 3.5 / 5