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WYTCHES #1 Review: A Perfect Halloween Read

One of the undisputed successes of DC’s New 52 initiative is the Batman relaunch by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. The combined energy and talent of Capullo (Spawn, Haunt) and Snyder (American Vampire) has resulted in a book so popular and well-acclaimed (with good reason), the duo was able to talk DC down from a recent price hike for the series.

Capullo isn’t the only artist Snyder–a creative writing professor at multiple universities and author of the short story collection Voodoo Heart–has created gripping, exciting work with. Before the New 52, Snyder had a stint on Detective Comics with one of Britain’s finest cartoonists, Jock (The Losers, 2000 AD) and the equally phenomenally talented Francesco Francavilla (The Black Beetle)–the two artists switched off between issues–that resulted in the famous “The Black Mirror” storyline.

Now, Snyder and Jock have come back together with Wytches, a brand new series from Image that proves these two haven’t lost a step. This book not only continues the astonishing years-long streak of quality that Image has been on, but is a marvelous horror comic. It’s creepy, unsettling and absolutely gripping.

The Plot

In 1919, a woman is locked inside an ancient tree in a secluded forest. She frantically calls for help as something chittering inside the tree comes ever closer. Suddenly, her young son, Tim, appears. She yells at him to break her out.

Tim asks why she’s there and she breathlessly replies, “Someone pledged me to them! I was pledged! Please, Tim! Get me out!”

Instantly, Tim bashes his own mother across the face with a rock. “Pledged is pledged,” he says. Then, screaming, the boy’s mother is dragged deep into the tree by grey, gnarled hands.

In the present day, the Rooks family–cartoonist father Charles, paraplegic mother Lucy and thirteen-year old daughter Sailor–have moved to a new house in the middle of the woods outside of an equally secluded town after an incident involving Sailor and a horrible bully that ended tragically. The family–especially the withdrawn, alienated Sailor–just wants to move on. Unfortunately, everyone at her new school knows exactly who she is and keeps asking her, “Did you kill that girl? Or not?”

Of course, Sailor didn’t. Instead, when the awful confrontation went down in the woods, Alice–the bully–was suddenly, brutally dragged into a tree by the same chittering, grey creatures. All Sailor and her parents want is to just move on from the whole thing, but they can’t. And their new home has even worse things in store for them.

The Execution

Snyder has made no secret of the influence Stephen King had on him (the feeling is mutual, as King selected two of Snyder’s stories for The Best American Short Stories of 2007 and wrote the backup feature to the first arc of American Vampire). In a 2011 interview with Hero Complex, he named King “one of the greatest writers of all time.” The King’s spirit can be felt throughout Wytches, from the cloistered setting–apparently New Hampshire, a stone’s throw from Maine–to the authentic-sounding kids and the way Snyder crafts the story to hook readers page by page.

That’s not to undermine Snyder’s own voice, which is just as strong. While it might have been a tad too self-referential to make Charles a cartoonist, the wonderful bond between him and Sailor–a scene of them joking around that is the most authentic parent-kid interaction I’ve seen in comics since Saga–is beautifully executed. Although she’s not as prominent, Lucy and her loving warmth are a light amidst the darkness.

Speaking of darkness, the most frightening scene in the issue doesn’t involve the monster-ridden trees. It’s Alice bullying Sailor. Alice–who’s just taller enough than Sailor to be physically intimidating–is a greasy-haired, absolute monster. “I just hate you, b***h,” she snarls. That’s all. I hate your stupid face. Your little gay style. I just. Hate. YOU.” The weight of that scene, and the way Snyder manages to capture the ugly, aimless hatred that drives bullies to do what they do, is more disturbing thing here.

Jock is similarly at the top of his game here. His character work is distinctive and memorable; Sailor, with her red hair, tinted glasses and unique wardrobe, is a very visually striking protagonist. Jock’s backgrounds are also stellar. His pencils, particularly in the forest scenes, are feverishly tight, full of shadows that always encroach on the foreground, setting an eerie, ominous tone, even in the book’s quieter moments.

Jock’s panel layouts and compositions are equally masterful. He knows just when to close in on a character and when to pull away. It’s a masterstroke of tension, and I hope it continues in future issues.

Although Snyder and Jock are the big names here, the book wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does without colorist Matt Hollingsworth. In a crowded field of stellar colorists like Jordie Bellaire and Maris Wicks, Hollingsworth makes his mark with colors that pop and pulsate with life. It’s striking, gorgeous work that, combined with Hollingsworth’s equally remarkable lighting effects, helps ground the pencils and brings them to fully bloom. On the basis of the opening pages alone, Hollingsworth deserves a barrage of awards nods.

Final Thoughts

Just prior to this review’s release, Image announced in a press release that they’ve already sold out of this comic’s entire first printing. No surprise. This comic is great. Scary with a capital-S, it blends astonishing art, gorgeous colors, and a captivating, disturbing story to make what is some of the most striking horror in mainstream comics. This book is a triumph. Seek it out, then read it either in a dim room or at twilight. Let the shadows fall over you and the terror crawl. And be astonished.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars 

Wytches #1 is available in print and digitally on Comixology and Image Comics.

Cover image via

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Categories: Comic Reviews

Author:Tom Speelman

A lifetime of reading comics and watching television has left Tom with an inexhaustible supply of pop culture knowledge from the obvious to the obscure. Rather than keep it all in his brain for use at parties, Tom turned to writing a few years ago to help him share that knowledge with as many people as are remotely interested. Tom writes for several websites including The Mary Sue, Strange Horizons, Loser City and others. For even further rambling, follow him on Twitter @tomtificate.

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  1. WYTCHES #1 Sells Over 90K Copies In One Month | Another Castle - 11/06/2014

    […] Comics announced on November 4 that the dark horror comic Wytches has sold over 90,000 copies of its first issue, released last month. The California-based publisher […]

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