Wytches is creepy. It starts out creepy and maintains creepy through the whole issue. That is not a complaint, though I’m creeped out more than I thought, or expected. This is a dark, dark, comic — so dark I’m surprised at least two scenes were actually included. So kudos to writer Scott Snyder, though I fear for his mental health.
The art by Jock matches the creep-factor of the story. It’s very similar to artist Sean Phillips’ work, and that is the highest praise from me. Dark woods. Rain. Most of all, great facial expressions on the characters: anguish, angst, fear, hate. A writer doesn’t have to ‘tell’ much when someone like Jock can ‘show’ it expertly. Awesome colors by Matt Hollingsworth give the issue that dark moodiness that I love.
The characters of the Rooks family are all full characters—in one issue we readers understand who they are, what they are, and motivations. Again, kudos to Snyder for concentrating on character first, and leaving the plot/mystery to develop later, though still giving us plenty to be curious about.
I love the main character, Sailor (Sail for short) and her teenage angst. Her life would be traumatic enough without getting pushed into a Halloween horror-world. There are nice touches, like that she’s online and involved in FB drama, but without it overriding into the real world action. It’s there, it ‘places’ the story in contemporary times, without potentially dating it, meaning this could be a classic series.
Image Comics just seems to be getting all the best stories and creators. This is what happens when good creative teams have the freedom to do what they want, and own (in both senses of that word) their work.
I don’t want to wait a month to see what happens next.
Scott Snyder takes our society’s conception of a bubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble witch and completely revamps it. Reinventing the entire mythos of an idea takes talent and this team performed with Wytches #1. Forget the hats, forget the brooms – these Wytches are the scariest thing you’re going to be thinking about this Halloween.
There is a brief, but terrifying, introduction that takes place in the early 1900s that sets the tone for Wytches. Jock’s use of heavy lines and drastic angles are suffocating and capture the intense panic and fear of the victim. Matt Hollingsworth’s coloring is perfect. Dark colors layered with purples and blues highlight the intensity while breathing magic into the air. Blood pops off the page in spatters and splotches. The idea of “pledging” another person to the wytches for some sort of exchange is presented in the story. These sorts of pacts are resonant of the Greek system at Universities, secret societies, and other associations, but all have something in common – sacredness. The pledges mean something more, something bigger, being a part of something.
Themes of family and belonging, bullying and opposition are present in Wytches. The story that takes place in modern time revolves around the Rooks, a close-knit family of three. It’s apparent that they are recovering from an incident and are trying to move on with their lives. Snyder does a fantastic job at creating a solid family unit; one that cares and loves one another, each with their own personalities that compliment one another. It’s a story that revolves around people, not just the wytches that haunt them. Jock purposefully fills the majority of the panels with people, letting us know that they are the subject. While we don’t see much of the wytches, the elongated features and horrendous “chiiiit” sounds they utter boasts Hollingsworth’s ability to carefully use shadows and color to give off subtle nuances of their power and influence in the world we’re given.
This team’s ability to create a family I genuinely care about and strike fear into me all in a single issue says something about the quality of talent behind this book. It’s well worth a read.
The aspect of Scott Snyder’s horror stories that I have always enjoyed the most was their personal connections. Whether you’re looking at Severed or The Wake, the themes of Snyder’s horror stories always relate to Snyder’s own fears. Even in something like the uneven “Death of the Family”, the horror aspects are derived from his paternal terror at disappointing his children. None of his previous works is quite as personal as Wytches though.
It’s not hard to draw connections between Snyder and a family whose father makes comics and mother is a doctor (like Snyder’s own wife). That connection creates a story whose terrors, no matter how impossible, feel very real. The wytches of this story are twisted, deformed monsters who cannot possibly exist. The ideas they evoke are universal though. They prey upon (barely metaphorical) deals with the devil. Family members make agreements with them in order to get what they need. Whether it is protecting a loved one or curing an illness, they offer a good but at an impossible price. How far would you go for someone you loved? Is it possible to go to far to protect a child? Can being a parent warp your humanity? These are the questions raised in this debut issue and they reflect very real fears.
Jock constructs scenes of body horror and twisted terror that gave me shivers late at night. However, his best sequence in this issue is one based around a very real confrontation. The encounter between a bully and her victim scared me in a very real way, despite not being a father. The inability of a father to protect his child from the casual cruelty of her peer was something that filled me with dread. Jock presents the scene in a non-visceral manner, choosing to not revel in the sexual and violent aspects present. He toes a very fine line between legitimate fears and shock value, then dances upon it.
Wytches #1 is a deeply personal horror story and that is what allows it to be so effective. It is written from a place of love, as both a husband and father. These are the fears that can exist when love is present, preying on the feelings and people who leave us most vulnerable. I cannot wait to see where this goes next.
– Chase Magnett