Sunday, 31 May 2015

Wytches, Volume 1 Review (Scott Snyder, Jock)

Spooky spoilers ahead. Well, not really. Spooky that is.


But seriously, I do get very deep into the comic so if you’re just wondering whether I’d rec this or not, my answer is not. However if you’ve read it and want to see what I thought, carry on, though I expect it’ll be like Saga where everyone loves this and I’ll be in the corner, arms crossed, tut-tutting like a grump! 

Sailor Rooks wins the title of stupidest character name of the year has moved to a new school and house with her dad Charlie, a bestselling children’s book author, and mum Lucy, a paraplegic nurse. The detached house is located deep in the woods – wooooo! But the nightmare is just beginning for the Rooks family – the wytches are coming for the pledged…

When I found out the creative team behind the brilliant Batman: The Black Mirror were reuniting on a horror comic called Wytches, I thought this was going to be one of the comics of the year - an instant classic! … and it wasn’t. Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches is riddled with dumb clich├ęs, poorly written characters and numerous stupid scenes that add up to an enormously disappointing and underwhelming reading experience. 

The story is your usual horror setup: house in the woods, family terrorised by bad things, running, screaming, etc. The characters are tough to like as they’re underwritten cornballs. Charlie’s a Stephen King character - an alcoholic writer (Jack Torrance anyone?) - while Sailor’s your average mopey teen. The mum, Lucy, is a total flat-line. The book has far bigger problems than these but first and foremost it’d be good to have an original plot and/or engaging characters and right away Wytches fails to provide either - AND we’re supposed to care about what happens to them!

The opening page has the written definition of a witch that’s promptly scratched out on the next page – Snyder informing us none-too-subtly that this ain’t like no other witches you seen before, baby! Except they are. They look like most contemporary versions of witches that you’ve seen from movies like Evil Dead or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. That is, they’re pantomime scary, not actual scary. Snyder emphasises the close ties witches have traditionally had with communities and nature and we see things like magic potions and cauldrons appear throughout. How exactly is this different from any other witch story? 

But now the real storytelling problems begin in earnest, so once again, if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop here. 

A lot of scenes just happen because HORROR. Not for any other reason besides Snyder thinks it’s creepy even though it doesn’t make sense. There’s a bald woman hanging about the Rooks’ home who stands in the bushes and says “pledge” in the first issue - we find out who she is later but there’s no reason why she’d be doing this whatsoever. Then a deer wanders into the house, screams and spits up a chunk of flesh and blood. Why? Because HORROR. 

Why is a wytch sitting in a tree hissing like a cat? Because HORROR. Why are the wytches hanging around outside the windows of wherever Sailor’s at? Because HORROR. Then we get into tiresome cliches like the cop is in on it or nobody believes Charlie because he’s an alcoholic and the cop said he smelt booze on Charlie’s breath. 

That’s not even the worst of it - it’s just the tip of the crapberg! 

So, Clara, the bald female witch hunter, breaks into the Rooks’ home when Charlie’s alone so she could spray him with a blocker or something and then carve HERE into his abdomen - though it only appears briefly once before disappearing forever. She does this so she’ll protect him from the wytches’ magic and so he’ll figure out HERE means Here Pont, a nearby location - noticing the word on his gut before it magically fades away - drive out to the Here coast so she can tell him all about the wytches, give him the potions he needs, and then kill herself. 

Does any of that make sense? Why the hell doesn’t she just tell him the whole deal in the house, give him the stuff, and then go? Why stake out the house so you can carve out a cryptic name - that he might not understand or even miss! - instead of going the much more direct, simpler route?! Because CONTRIVANCE. 

I really hate how Snyder has the characters monologue like crazy when it’s their turn to ramble. When Clara’s no longer being mysterious, she talks and talks and talks until Snyder no longer needs her and kills her off. Same with Petal the cop who, once he’s found out, can’t stop talking about everything - his intentions, his history, the wytches’ history, their powers. Same with Lucy once she’s exposed - monologue, monologue, monologue! Forget unrealistic dialogue, this is such artless storytelling. 

And then there’s Sailor who, in the flashback to when her mum was in hospital, talks nothing like the 10 year old she’s supposed to be (in that scene that is - in the present she’s 13). A 10 year old who’s upset would, I imagine, simply yell and scream and cry - but Sailor delivers a thoughtful and very grown-up soliloquy about her complex emotions! She’s the most unconvincingly written 10 year old ever. Like her name, she’s very much a character in a story and not even close to resembling a real person, yet again making it difficult to care about her.

Some extended scenes just don’t work. The ferris wheel scene is a disaster, there to show us Charlie’s a bad father in a ridiculous way. The hovel scene is unimaginative too - besides avoiding the question of how exactly Sailor survives on her own without being gobbled up by the many wytches surrounding her, Charlie saves her with a gun. A gun! It shoots rat bullets (whatever that is) but still - a gun! Was Snyder even trying with this series? 

The ending is where all the crap crescendos into one big sloppy mess. Lucy reveals the wytches coming after their family was Charlie’s fault - he had “secret wants” and “a rage”. What the hell does that mean? He “called” them unconsciously because he wanted something? Doesn’t everyone have things they want but don’t say out loud - are there enough wytches to come after billions of people with their “secret wants” and/or angers? That might be the dumbest thing Snyder’s written yet. 

It gets worse - Lucy thought the only way to get rid of them was to pledge Sailor. What a great mother - spare me and take my daughter! So pledged is pledged (as the wytches chant by the end) and Lucy says they’ll never leave them alone until they get Sailor. But then it’s revealed pledge is green slime that Sailor sprays over the townsfolk - all of whom are in on it of course, another HORROR(ible) cliche - and that turns the wytches onto them. So… it seems really easy to distract the wytches from the “pledge”. Just spray someone other than Sailor with the (lemon) pledge and you’re home free! So all that crap could’ve been easily avoided - another easy solution ignored! It’s such a stupid ending. 

Jock’s art is good for the most part and I really liked the covers but colourist Matt Hollingsworth ruined the book with his choice of splattering the pages with blotchy colours. I think the idea is the spots/blotches represent magic in the air but they become distracting and completely diminishes Jock’s pages. The splatters aren’t bad for the first two issues but by issue three Hollingsworth’s gone off the rails and it looks horrible. Hollingsworth’s blotches may have been the one truly horrific part of the comic. 

That it’s not scary isn’t really a problem for me as most horror just isn’t scary. But, given the talent behind it, I was expecting Wytches to at least be entertaining and instead it turned out to be thuddingly tedious. Corny horror, weak family melodrama, annoying characters, unoriginal concepts – Wytches is very disappointing stuff, along the lines of Snyder’s other lacklustre horror comic, American Vampire.


Wytches, Volume 1

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