- Story: Scott Snyder
- Art: Jock
- Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
- Letters: Clem Robbins
- Publisher: Image Comic
Horror is not a genre I’m regularly drawn to, no matter media. I have little love for gore porn and I don’t get the same thrill from being scared that most horror fans seem to thrive on. I do, however, enjoy a compelling mystery and new takes on classic monsters. Enter Wytches, creator owned Image book of supernatural gruesomeness written by current Batman scribe Scott Snyder and illustrated by the one and only Jock. Having read some of Scott’s American Vampire series alongside his work involving everyone’s favorite Caped Crusader, I knew I’d have to give this a look; whether or not it made my skin crawl. And yes, as a matter of fact it did.
In the first issue we are first introduced not to the main character, but to the Wytches themselves, or more accurately, a Wytch. We are shown a shrieking woman trying to escape a hollowed out tree when her young son, Timothy, stumbles upon her in the woods. She asks for his help, but when he learns that someone has pledged her to “them”, the boy becomes a lot less sentimental. Pledged is pledged, says Timothy, and the last we see of his mother is her terrified expression as a gnarled hand wraps around the back of her skull, pulling her back in from the knot of the tree. Yeah, a little messed up right?
From there we meet Sailor, a teen girl whose artist father has moved her and her mother to a new town in hopes that she can get a fresh start. After a fatal incident with a bully named Annie, Sailor has garnered a bit of a reputation alongside a hefty dose of anxiety. While others lean towards her being a murderer, our mentally scarred protagonist knows that it wasn’t a someone who killed her tormentor but something…atleast that’s what she hopes she saw. Otherwise, what does that mean for her?
The issue ends after a discussion between Sailor and her father before she goes to bed; a heartfelt scene where the redheaded teen continues to wonder if what happened that day in the forest was her fault. Her dad tries his best to calm her, but we can see that her internal struggle and his need to protect his child is starting to overwhelm him. After he wishes her goodnight, Sailor is left alone with her thoughts, until she spies a creature crouched in the branches of a tree outside, calling her name. Cue screaming, a panicked parent, and a to be continued.
This leads almost directly into issue two where we find Sailor gripping at her bloody neck and her bedroom window smashed in. This portion is told through flashback by her dad, Charlie, to friend and publisher Reg, their concern for Sailor palpable. Tests are being done on the bit, but it isn’t just her physical health Charlie is worried about at this point.
At school, Sailor isn’t doing much better than the night before. She is consumed with fear and paranoia and even sees the creature that attacked her through the window during gym glass. Not only that, the bite on her neck starts to resemble something other than a thick bump. Unable to ignore what is happening, Sailor rushes into the woods and demands a confrontation with the creature. What she seeks comes willingly, perhaps to the detriment of her and her family. There are forces at work in this town they don’t understand and neither does the reader, given the unexpected surprise on this second issue’s final page.
Though I might be playing a bit of catch up in this review, Scott Snyder’s narrative is nothing if not perfectly paced. Horror is all about the tension, the build-up and the satisfying reveals at the appropriate times, all key points that Snyder executes flawlessly. In issue one he does this simply by letting you into this family’s life, allowing you to see the struggles they have both individually and together. As we move to issue number two, this remains a large piece of the narrative but the supernatural elements and their steady inclusion start to become more prevalent. If you have any doubts this isn’t a true horror comic, you can lay those to rest.
Yet, if we didn’t care about the main character and those she loved, there would not be much to invest in besides the creatures and the scares. Luckily for the reader, you can’t help but feel for Sailor and her family. The bullying she received was visceral, her guilt and anxiety is plain as day, and her family is a modern one; loving, goofy, irritable, and worrisome. You don’t want any of them to get hurt, but from what seeds are being planted, they may not be as pure as one would hope. There are multiple layers to this story that are being stitched together seamlessly and that’s a testament to Scott Snyder’s experience.
A horror comic would be nothing without frightening visuals and Jock is back with Mr. Snyder to give the audience a healthy dose of creep. While the reader gets only glimpses and shadowy peeks at the Wytches in the first couple of issues, that’s to be expected as we delve deeper into the narrative. What we do get is sufficiently spooky, drawn in Jock’s bold and graphic art style. His splash art illustration brings a surreal quality to the work that helps enhance the unsettling nature of the story while colorist Matt Hollingsworth’s deep blacks and subtly vibrant colors keeps the pages from looking bland. It would be easy to keep to a darker color palette considering the genre, but it is clear that is not what this duo is going for. It’s nothing short of gorgeous and all the more disturbing for it.
Lastly, the concept of Wytches itself deserves some attention. In a world filled to brimming with sexy, misunderstood vampires, and sexy, misunderstood werewolves, our media lacks true monsters these days. What Wytches does is grab you by the face and force you to look at these creatures for what they are: true and utter monstrosities. These are not cute girls in pointy hats and tight shirts or even fat old ladies luring children into their homes with candy, these are primal beasts that hold greater power than we can even fathom. Scott Snyder and his Wytches remind us all that monsters can still be very scary and that is a damn good thing.
Grab this book if you are a fan of supernatural horror and suspense. There’s a captivating world to explore here, but it’s not going to come out and tell you everything you want to know, nor should it. It’s freaky, it’s intriguing, and, most importantly, it’s everything that horror is meant to be in a few masterfully illustrated pages. When you do pick these issues up from your local comic shop, however, just remember: who would you pledge?
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