Today I’ve got a review for you all! I recently bought a few new graphic novels and thought it’d be cool to chat about them.
One of these new GNs is Wytches Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder (writer), jock (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colours), Clem Robins (letters) and David Brothers (editor), published by Image Comics. It collects issues #1-6 and came out in June 2015. That means this review is practically timely!
I picked Wytches up because I’d seen friends talking about it on twitter, because jock is one of my favourite artists and I’d heard good things about Snyder as a writer. Overall, I’m really pleased I bought it – I’m not often one to grab horror comics, but this one grabbed me!
The basic plot of Wytches revolves around Sailor Rook and her parents Charlie and Lucy – a family who have moved to a new town, Litchfield, for a fresh new start. This new start doesn’t go so well and the creatures who rule Litchfield are hungering to take Sailor. As Sailor tries to get over the horrific event from her past, she has to cope with being hunted by the wytches. Charlie is trying to prove he’s a decent father after a drunken outburst damages his relationship with Sailor and he is drawn in to the battle to defeat the wytches by one who has escaped their clutches.
As a horror comic, the scares are meant to come from two angles – the wytches themselves and the psychological horror of the choices humans make. Personally, I didn’t find the psychological aspect particularly scary – but then again, reading a comic where people ‘pledge’ others as sacrifices to the wytches, I can’t help but look at our current government and think the people of Litchfield possess significantly more moral backbone. However, for anyone not as cynical as me, or possibly someone who does hold responsibility for another, I can see the actions of many Wytches characters being very unsettling – particularly a twist near the end. The idea of a whole village being in thrall to evil is not a new one, but Snyder’s focus on Sailor, her anxiety and her struggles and his ability to build our sympathy for her means the retreading of familiar ground is a minor quibble.
In terms of psychological horror, for me the scariest bit by far was a flashback scene where we see Sailor being tormented by her bully, Annie. The actions Annie threatens are truly horrific and the way in which she intends to hurt Sailor is particularly unsettling – because this is something that has happened to people, Annie’s bullying is a tangible, real-life horror that truly wrecks lives. In comparison, cult-like townspeople are hardly a daily threat, so their undeniably awful actions are too distant from reality to scare me.
Like the evil town, the wytches themselves are not a totally unique horror monster but I found them much more unsettling than the Litchfielders. Part of this is down to jock’s fantastic art style – he is very adept at creating tension and a claustrophobic atmosphere. He’s aided by Hollingsworth’s colours – well toned and chosen, with layer effects added which contribute to the feeling of the book without being overly distracting. So clearly jock and Hollingsworth’s skills help make the wytches scarier than they might otherwise be, but Snyder’s ideas behind them, the way they move and camouflage themselves are what made them scary to me. The human mind is very adept at seeing patterns and recognising faces and people where there are none – it’s pretty scary to think that instead of imagining things, you’re really seeing hunters waiting to pounce.
Interestingly, as I actually read the comic I didn’t really feel the wytches were all that scary, but the idea of them has played on my mind during the night and today at work – which is not great when you’re going into pitch black rooms in an desolate mansion house with the requisite creaks, groans and feel of isolation. Walking into the dark, knowing you need to keep going to reach the light and feeling the fear creep up your neck as you imagine a hand reaching out to snatch you every second the dark lingers… yeah, I can see those wytches being pretty scary!
Wytches Vol. 1 is a self-contained story, although you are treated to a preview of the second volume at end of the book. There’s also a few pages of jock’s inked pages, colours only pages, some developmental stuff and a few essays by Snyder – the essay for #1 was particularly great.
Overall I have to say I enjoyed Wytches a lot! Snyder is a skillful writer, jock and Hollingsworth created beautiful interiors and I liked some of the ideas the comic explored. If you’re ok with violence or you’re interested in horror comics, I recommend picking this up! My local Forbidden Planet had it for £7.50, which I think was very reasonable!