Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Wytches #1 Review (Scott Snyder, Jock)

This sounds like it should be the best comic of the month. Scott Snyder reteaming with his Batman: The Black Mirror artist Jock for a series called Wytches AND it’s launching just weeks before Halloween? And I did like Wytches #1, sort of, but I was hoping to LOVE this comic, and maybe that’s why it fell short - my expectations were too high. 

The comic starts off with the actual dictionary definition for a witch printed on the page, followed by the same page with the definition scratched out. Snyder and Jock are telling you to forget all you know about witches - these are THEIR wytches, bitches! 

The opening scene is strong too. Set in 1919, a woman is impossibly crammed inside a thin tree (how could she possibly have gotten into it?) calling for help. Her son shows up and… well, it reminded me very strongly of the ending to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. 

So far, so good. 

Then we’re in 2014 and we meet our heroine who looks like a young Barbara Gordon (a nod perhaps to The Black Mirror?) and is named Sailor. 

That’s right - Sailor! 

That might be the worst character name I’ve seen in quite some time. Sailor. Sailor! Took me right out of the narrative, it was that stupid! It's such a bad celebrity-type name for a kid. 

So, Sailor’s getting a pep talk from her Matt Fraction-looking dad before she starts her first day in a new school. She supposedly did something terrible in the woods in her old school so her family moved away into a new house surrounded by even more woods because that’s a good idea. Her comics writer/artist dad and wheelchair-bound mother have a surreal encounter with a deer, and we see our first wytch. 

It’s not a bad first issue, it’s just not a great one either. Following his enormous success with Batman, there’s an expectation with Snyder to produce great comics every time, so when he comes out with an average one, it’s a bit disappointing. The horror isn’t really very scary or original, especially the wytches who look like carnival attractions. 

They’re not riding broomsticks with crooked belt-buckle hats but if you’ve read your share of Hellboy comics, you’re not gonna be impressed with what you see. Also Sailor’s not exactly an amazing or memorable character, and generally the book brought back memories of Snyder’s recent run on Swamp Thing rather than establish its own identity right away. 

The art team is brilliant with Jock giving us some great dynamic shots for the action scenes and expressive character faces throughout, though the character designs, as already mentioned, are a bit lacking and contrived. Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are as gorgeous as ever and I love that he’s put his own style onto the comic. 

For example, the last two pages of the issue show Jock’s uncoloured inks and then Hollingsworth’s colours applied to the inks, and there’s a massive difference and not just in the obvious way. Whenever the wytches are in the comic, there are splotches and stains in the background of the pages, as if representing the chaos they bring to the page or the underlying magic of their appearances. It’s an excellent creative choice by Hollingsworth. 

First issues should ideally spur the reader on to the next issue and gee them up for the series but Wytches #1 doesn’t really accomplish this. If anything, given the talent involved, it lessens the anticipation of forthcoming issues if this is going to be the standard: competent but unoriginal. Wytches #1 is an ok horror comic then and not a bad start to a promising series. But if you want to see Snyder’s best horror comic, check out Severed for a much creepier read.

Wytches #1

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