Thee Comic Column #110: Wytches

WYTCHES-Cover-1-Final-7cd41I will admit that when I first heard about Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches my interest was tinged with a small swathe of trepidation. I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but after recently re-reading Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake I wasn’t too hot on the idea of jumping on a new series by Snyder. This is because, in The Wake‘s case, I love the set-up, LOVE the art (Sean Murphy can do no wrong in my book) and love the characters, love the story and the way it’s two stories that tell one bigger story. What I didn’t necessarily love however was the ending. Honestly, it left me a bit flat. Of course it’s true that the journey is just as important as the destination, but I just don’t know if the ending to The Wake does the rest of the story – and oh what a story – any justice. That more than anything else may be what bothers me about the book and had me a little trepidatious about starting out on a new path with Mr. Snyder at the helm.

But then, that’s selling the man a little short.

I’m a huge fan of Severed – a stand alone horror mini series Mr. Snyder collaborated with Scott Tuft and Attila Futaki on in 2011/2012. I’m also quite the fan of his Swamp Thing run – a book that I very much did not want to like because, you know, previously I didn’t have room in my life for anyone writing ol’ Swampy besides Alan Moore. No disrespect meant to the dozens of creators that have worked on that particular title over the years, it’s just that my own history with the character more or less starts and stops with Moore. Or it did I guess, because Snyder’s New 52 version of everyone’s favorite sentient plant life changed all that. Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing is, in my humble opinion, a great read and a truly fantastic reboot; exactly the kind of reboot I had hoped all the New 52 titles would strive to be. But that was definitely not the case with the New 52.

But I digress…

Getting back to Wytches, I’d also have to add to my mixed bag of expectations the fact that Mike, my co-host on Drinking with Comics described the advance of the first issue he’d read as “Spooky as all hell”. Based on all this, and reservations aside, Wytches #1 was on my pile at The Comic Bug that first week in October. It took me another two weeks to read it, so when I did it ended up being right before Halloween – my favorite time of the year – and consequently it hit me in all the right places a book can hit me at that time of the year. Dark woods, starless nights, voices in the forest… ah! Perfect Autumnal horror. And yes, Wytches is indeed “Spooky as all hell.”

And genuinely spooky material is something we’ve not had a lot of in the culture until very recently, both wythcesin the cinema and in comics. After the old school Vertigo aesthetic – tent-poled by truly creepy books like Hellblazer, Sandman and the aforementioned Swamp Thing – gave way to the decidedly more “HBO” vibe that came in during the oughts with books like The Exterminators, Northlanders, Scalped, etc., spooky didn’t have as well-defined of a home anymore. Of course there’s always been Mike Mignola’s stuff. And a lot of the old Creepy and EC stuff has come back into print in really nice hardcover editions, but spooky was kind of Vertigo’s thing for a nice long while, and after that there wasn’t any one place looking to reestablish that aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong -all those post-Preacher Vertigo books are great, but, well, I guess horror had kind of run its course over at DC’s “adult” imprint*. Image Comics though has had a lot of luck with spooky of late, and Wytches is yet another book in a growing line of books that traffic in the macabre and do it well, in Wytches case with a genuinely frightening tone and really vivid characters who have been through hell and are poised to go through what will probably be a lot more of it. There’s something about a family in trouble that really harrows the soul, and in Wytches we’re getting that in spades right off the bat. The situation in the day-to-day lives of the Rooks is laced with a kind of frustrated sadness that really helps add to the horror you feel when daughter Sailor begins to encounter… well, let’s just say something in the woods. What is that something? I’d rather not even venture a guess, because right now, we don’t really know. And that ineffable quality to the antagonistic force helps define the aura of enigmatic horror just as much as some of what we do see, which is all really, really wicked.

Wytches_Movie_Rights_Acquired

I don’t know where Wytches is going or how long it’s going to take to get there. If Image has announced a finite number of issues for the series I want to avoid hearing what that number is for as long as I can. I always prefer not knowing when or where I am in the story – it makes for better suspense. Suspense that’s already thick as smoke after the set-up of the first two issues. I don’t want to get into spoilers territory but obviously the title evokes a certain horror archetype. Yet, that’s not what we’re seeing in this book, or at least not yet. Suffice it to say, so far you can kind of see a diverging point from what we’ve perhaps colloquially been led to expect by a book with this name, but the logic of the horror in Wytches is a logic I’ve not seen anywhere else up until now. There’s a kind of old school European folklore feeling at play here, a feeling very much accentuated by Jock’s truly eerie art, and this adds a sinister, non sequitur feeling to the book. Dark tones, darker actions and dark, terrifying moments of stillness that subverts our need to make sense of the patterns we find in stories like this, and leaves us feeling alone and exposed because of it. Which direction is North? Which is up? Which way is out? Is this the first act, the third or are we lost in the proverbial woods of a story structure we’re not even close to understanding yet?

Only time – and the Wytches – will tell.

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* But spooky is making a bit of a comeback at Vertigo of late, with books like Coffin Hill, The Dead Boy Detectives and Snyder’s American Vampire.

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

2 Responses to Thee Comic Column #110: Wytches
  1. […] first wrote about Scott Snyder and Jock’s series Wytches when issue #1 came out back around Oc... joup.co/thee-comic-column-129-horror-fans-read-wytches-now
  2. Tommy Reply

    I’m really digging this book so far.

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