Written by Nunzio Defilippis & Christina Weir
Illustrated by Christopher Mitten
Colored by Bill Crabtree
Published by Oni Press
I went into Bad Medicine knowing absolutely nothing about it. I’d seen it on the shelf but as it was already several issues in, I figured I’d wait for the trade. That was a smart move simply because if I’d been reading this series in single issues, the anticipation and tension between new ones would have been nigh unbearable for me.
Bad Medicine Vol. 1 collects the first two stories in this series where medicine meets mythology, each one blending elements of science with the supernatural. It’s a graphic novel melding of X-Files and House, complete with the strong, skeptic investigator and the cantankerous doctor who sees the disease first and the afflicted person second. Randal Horne is the aforementioned cranky doc, though he technically lost his license a few years ago after causing the death of a patient. He is the constant in each story, the new go-to specialist at the CDC for inexplicable events with a fringe medicine component. It seems that spending a few years traveling the world learning more about fringe science with the mental apparition of his dead patient has well prepared him for this role. Seriously, it should be creepy but almost comes off as charming when he speaks with her.
The first chapter is the story of NYPD detective Joely Huffman’s investigation into the “Headless Horseman” case, as her colleagues so wittily refer to it. Matthew Dalton is the horseman in question but is only figuratively headless: his head is still attached to his body but has become invisible from the neck up. It appears to have been severed at the neck but MRI’s and other tests show the head is still there. You just can’t see it. Now that’s a hook that piqued my interest immediately. Huffman and Horne end up solving the case, though not really through teamwork as they’re still strangers thrown together in this chapter. They become an official CDC sanctioned unit at the end of this trade, setting up all sorts of future adventures. She keeps him balanced — well, as balanced as you can be while talking to a dead person in your head.
Visually, I love this book. It has a very distinctive yet simple art style, and some really iconic covers. A good cover should hint at what to expect from the issue but also stand on its own. Each chapter’s cover grabs your interest and could easily hang on a wall as an art piece, especially the first Killing Moon cover. It’s beautiful and disturbing, a great mix for the story it’s representing.
In a comic industry that considers six issues the ideal length for a story arc— conveniently enough, also the average size of a trade paperback— each chapter is technically short but it never feels that way. Events play out naturally: you get just enough information to follow along without having everything become too obvious, more than enough tension to keep you on edge and every chapter has a satisfying conclusion. Each tale feels like a substantial read and it’s hard to believe they’re only two or three issues long.
Bad Medicine is a really well paced series that’s worth picking up, especially if you dig shows like Fringe, X-Files, House or Grimm. Get Bad Medicine Vol. 1 on January 30th at your local comic book store.