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"The Ward: Welcome to the Madhouse" Comic Review

Written by Joel Harley

Published by Dark Horse Comics

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Originally published as The Ward: Welcome to the Madhouse #1 - #4

Written by Cavan Scott
Illustrated by Andres Ponce
Colour Assistance by Mina Carrier and Pablo Kotramanis
Lettered by Mauro Mantella
2022, 103 pages
Trade paperback released on January 17th, 2023

Review:

Consumers of media are used to the police procedural, both straight-faced and supernatural. From Gotham Central to the BRPD, there's no shortage of comic book cops busting all manner of crimes. Altogether less visited, however, is the hospital procedural. While you might have better luck on the idiot box (Casualty, House, Grey's Anatomy), the medical procedural has yet to properly translate to the medium of funnybook. Not unless you count Marvel's The Vitals: True Nurse Stories, should you be some kind of completist.

Enter the four issues of The Ward: Welcome to the Madhouse, by Cavan Scott and Andres Ponce. Now collected in this trade paperback edition, The Ward tells of St. Lilith's – a secret hospital for mythical and supernatural creatures. Ghosts, mermaids, goblins, giants and blobs populate the corridors of this magical madhouse. It's Hogwarts meets ER; Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, played straight.

Click images to enlarge.

Writer Scott throws readers in at the deep end, through the eyes of a perplexed neighbour who stumbles across a young woman, suffering from stab wounds – and with a tail sprouted from her backside. It's here that we meet one-time St. Lilith's doctor Nat Reeves, who rushes the patient to hospital (via a very Hogwarts magic wall) and leaves poor neighbour Wilfred to lose his mind over what he witnesses there.

Impressively, the hospital is no set dressing for an otherwise unrelated horror or fantasy story – Scott gets to the nitty-gritty of hospital life, throwing its characters into all the scenarios one might expect from a medical drama. There's childbirth (with giants), car accidents (with a sasquatch) and drug overdoses (with a banshee). True to the medical soap subgenre, this will also lead its characters getting into scrapes of their own, and struggling as the hospital is overwhelmed by catastrophe.

Click images to enlarge.

This is all well illustrated by Ponce, whose recognisably human figures sit alongside all manner of mythical and magical creatures. While some of the figure work can be a little ungainly, the art looks great when Ponce really cuts loose with the scarier and weirder creatures - thicker, scratchier lines helping them jump from the page, emphasising the dichotomy between human and not. The colour work – assisted by Mina Carrier and Pablo Kotramanis - is washed out enough so as to capture both the human and the supernatural in a shared, surprisingly mundane world.

While the fantasy world Scott and Ponce have created isn't especially original, their approach is a new one, ripe with possibilities, and with an impressive dedication when it comes to sticking to the concept.

Grades:

Story: threeandahalfstars Cover
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Art: threeandahalfstars
Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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