The first page of “Voodoo” #0 by Joshua Williamson and Sami Basri opens with Pris waking up in a tank, and in voiceover she recalls a memorable school day in her childhood. This monologue is an excellent lead-in and Pris’ speculations to herself about eating “bad Thai” food on page three hit a chatty note of humor. The issue also ends on a strong note with Voodoo having the last word in a snappy exchange with Grifter. Voodoo looks strong and tough on the last page, so it’s too bad she spends most of the issue running around in a thick mash of worn lab/cloning/alien tropes. Williamson’s writing shines when he gets precise and his casual idiomatic dialogue can work, but most of the issue lacks originality.
Williamson’s Daemonites are bumbling villains that sit on the fence between irritating and amusing. Williamson has Grifter asking, “Why do you Daemonites always talk like you learned English from Shakespeare?” Good question, and Daemonites did talk like that back in the old Wildstorm, but in “Voodoo” #0 they more typically talk in stilted rhythm and too-casual colloquial phrasing.
Whatever English sounds like when an alien species learns it, it is painful to think that it might be anything like these cliches that pass for dialogue. There are also bad typos not caught by the editors or the letterer, such as the Daemonites calling humans easy “captors” when “captures” or “captives” are meant and “You’re death draws near, Grifter.”
In the lab-rat-run-amok sequence that takes up two-thirds of the issue, Voodoo’s heavy-handed, overly explanatory internal monologue isn’t much better. It takes a whole four pages for Pris to resolve the question of whether she’s dreaming or in a lab.
The saving grace of “Voodoo” #0 is Sami Basri and Jessica Kholinne’s art. Basri has a clean, distinctively spacious line and his action flows very clearly. If “Voodoo” #0 came without any text boxes or dialogue bubbles, 85% of what occurs is obvious from Basri’s facial expressions and transitions alone. This redundancy between script and art weakens the issue but showcases Basri’s strong storytelling. His bodies are well-proportioned, and a panel with Pris running towards a window is one of many balanced compositions, with the negative space and the narrowing shape of the panel defining the scene as much as Pris’ figure in the foreground. It’s a nice touch that Basri reuses one of his opening page panels for when Pris’ clone wakes up later in her own tank. Jessica Kholinne’s colors fill in Basri’s lines with calming, cool complementary tones of green and blue and purple. If anything, her palette is too harmonious. The warm sun-red glow peeking out of teal-colored ceilings fixtures and the periwinkle purple Daemonite bodies diminish any sense of real threat or horror. However, Kholinne’s colors are so much prettier than the average coloring job and should be praised more than criticized.
“Voodoo” #0 passes on tying up all loose ends with a “to be continued” cliffhanger ending. The clone story in “Voodoo” relied on shock value more than good character development or dialogue, and series cancellation will upset few readers, but it will be interesting to see what becomes of the character and her clone as they become more of a presence in “Grifter.”