Published on July 6th, 2014 | by Steven Roman
Review: Dr. Spektor #1-2
I don’t remember too much of Dr. Adam Spektor, Gold Key Comics’ ghost-chasing equivalent to DC Comics’ Doctor 13; when I did buy a Gold Key title back in the 1970s it was usually one of their many licensed series, usually Star Trek or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor, by creator/writer Donald Glut and artists Dan Spiegle and Jesse Santos, was never on my radar. But when I learned that Dynamite Entertainment, as part of its publishing deal with Gold Key’s current properties’ holder, was reviving Dr. Spektor along with Magnus: Robot Fighter, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and Solar: Man of the Atom, and that it would be written by Mark Waid of Daredevil and Captain America fame, well, they had my interest.
And so we have Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult, now halfway through its four-issue miniseries. This reboot of the character initially seemed to ask, “What if Kitchen Nightmare’s volatile chef Gordon Ramsay were cast as John Constantine, as the host of the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters—except the ghosts and monsters he encountered were real?” Which, admittedly, would make for a potentially great show. But then this story takes an odd turn…
In issue 1 we’re introduced to Spektor as he does a live broadcast of his show Doctor Spektor: Bring ’Em Back Undead! (For those too young to get the joke, it’s a play on 1920s and ’30s real-life hunter/adventurer Frank Buck, whose autobiography, Bring ’Em Back Alive, was a bestseller.) For this episode Spektor confronts a vampire, but Spektor isn’t your traditional ghostbuster—he’s the head of a major research corporation that uses high-tech science to battle the forces of darkness, as the vampire quickly discovers. We then meet his newest assistant, Abby Horne, who may soon come to regret taking on the job…
In issue 2, however, the supernatural trappings get tossed aside for a more scientific approach. Spektor becomes less a master of the occult and more a potential master of space and time—in other words, he turns into a Doctor Who stand-in. So, maybe it’s not Gordon Ramsay as John Constantine, it’s Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s portrayal of vampire hunter and illusionist Peter Vincent (a character loosely based on Criss Angel) in the 2012 remake of Fright Night. With Matt Smith’s bow tie. Which makes sense, in a way. In a 2013 interview with Starburst magazine, Waid said, “I love time travel stories like you would never believe…. And if I could do any incarnation? Easy: The Tenth.”
Given Waid’s love for the British sci-fi television series (and pop culture juggernaut), it’s not all that surprising that the story reads like a potential episode. It’s just surprising that it’s done in what started out as a dark-fantasy comic.
How Whovian is it? You’ve got a Gypsy who has visions that reveal dark times ahead; in issue 1, they include an image of Dynamite’s other Gold Key characters: Magnus: Robot Fighter, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and Solar: Man of the Atom. The Doctor (Spektor) is, of course, skeptical of her abilities—until proven wrong. Issue 2 involves a trip to a possible parallel dimension in which the Doctor’s closest friend isn’t the nice guy he always seemed to be; the Doctor’s companion apparently thrust into present and future timelines in which she meets herself; and a time traveler (in this case, a guest appearance in issue 2 from Magnus) proclaiming that he’s traveled from the distant future to prevent the Doctor (Spektor) from destroying the universe. It’s like a mash-up of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s adventures “Inferno” (the Doctor travels to a parallel Earth) and “The Day of the Daleks” (the mechanical monsters traveling to the present). I’m almost expecting a supernatural equivalent of the Blinovitch Limitation Effect—a creation of Doctor Who’s writer to explain why time travelers can’t redo events in which they’ve already acted—to make an appearance before the miniseries concludes. Abby’s encounters with herself already hint at this.
(In case you couldn’t tell by now—yes, I’m a major fan of Doctor Who.)
Regardless, Waid is ably assisted in this timey-wimey adventure by Neil Edwards, who thankfully avoids casting Tennant in the role, as a lesser artist might have been tempted to do. There is a trace of Robert Downey Jr. in his goateed Spektor, especially when the mage starts wearing a tuxedo in issue 2, but overall Edwards does a fantastic job with such a character-driven story. There haven’t been many opportunities for him to bust loose on action sequences, but he excels at conveying emotion.
Bottom line? If you’re looking for a supernatural tale along the lines of Constantine or Doctor Strange, then I’m not sure this is the comic for you. On the other hand, if you’ve always wondered what a dark-fantasy version of Doctor Who might be like, then definitely check out Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult.
And you will. Because I am The Reviewer. And you. Will. Obey.
(That’s a Doctor Who in-joke, by the way. Sorry. I’m so, so sorry…)
Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1–2
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Neil Edwards
Main covers by Christian Ward
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
32 pages each • full-color
Issue #2 on sale now