Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Jock. Colours by Matt Hollingsworth. Letters by Clem Robins. Published by Image Comics.
Horror is hard to do in comics. Unlike film or video games, comics solely rely on what’s on the page and what the creators can do to build your imagination. Many horror comics fall flat as they either show too much too quickly or don’t get all the elements right. Wytches by writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing) and artist Jock (The Losers, Green Arrow: Year One) succeeds on so many levels at being a good horror comic that will scare your pants off. It might actually be one of the scariest comics I’ve ever read.
After some tragic incidents, the Rook family decided to relocate to escape the misfortune of their recent history and start fresh. The problem is there’s something even worse waiting for them when they arrive at the remote town of Litchfield – wytches. The daughter, Sailor, is haunted by these creatures and her past. This is because she has been pledged to the Wytches. Once that’s happened, you’re not safe. Pledged is pledged.
It’s established early on that these aren’t the witches you know from popular culture. All expectations about what the wytches are are thrown out of the window in the first two pages. The first page shows the dictionary definitions of the word “witch”. However, when you turn the page, it’s revealed that this definition has been violently scratched out. It’s a fantastic way to set the tone and distance the reader from preconceived notions. What we get instead are ancient and horrible creatures that lurk in the shadow, full of violent blood lust.
Instead of just showing the wytches straight away, the reader is given only glimpses of them. This is done in a variety of manners, from hiding them in the shadows to showing them from only a distance in the woods. Another way this has been done is through Matt Hollingsworth’s colouring, in which he has overlayed paint splatters on the page, with more intense pages receiving heaver splatter. These techniques force the reader to fill in the gaps with their imagination for what they can’t see.
Wytches is also full of mystery, which Snyder has paced out to build the suspense. By giving the readers details as they need them, he keeps readers on the edge of their seats as they enter the unknown. It also makes the comic unpredictable as situations are not spelled out for you – unlike some horror films.
It wouldn’t be half as scary if you didn’t care for the characters. There’s the father, Charlie, a writer of children’s books but also known for not being the best father at times. His attempts at writing his wrongs and how he worries for his family make you want to see him succeed. There’s also Sailor, who grows to care about after learning about her past and her experience of being pledged.
To top it all off, Wytches features fantastic art. Jock’s designs for the wytches are terrifying and look like something out of a nightmare. This is especially true in an early reveal of one crouching in a tree outside a bedroom window. That image gives me chills every time I think about it. The artist also excels, with the aid of Hollingsworth’s colours, at creating eerie environments for the wytches to hide in, with dense and tangled woods. This helps create mood, with the darkness letting the reader’s imagination go wild.
Wytches Volume 1 has all the elements working in tandem to make one hell of a scary horror comic. By taking away the reader’s exceptions as early as possible in conjunction with characters you care about, mystery and haunting art, Snyder and Jock have been able to create their own horrors both on the page and in the reader’s mind. If you’re a fan of horror done right, without the cheap thrills, then Wytches is a must-read.
Wytches Volume 1 is avialable in all good comic book shops, online retailers, Amazon/Kindle, and eBay.
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