‘Wytches’ #1 Absolutely Stunning, A Most Inventive Departure from Standard Horror Fare

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Wytches #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock
Publisher: Image Comics

Of the many comics set to make their debut this year, few are as hotly anticipated as Wytches. As Hollywood continues to hoard the comic book industry for inspiration, Image Comics’ newest horror series from writer Scott Snyder (American Vampire) and artist Jock (Batman: The Black Mirror) has been optioned by New Regency, with Plan B set to produce a feature film adaptation – and that’s only after one issue has hit the shelves. Yes it is that good! Snyder and Jock breathe new life into the horror mythos – from the first two pages which consists solely of the definition of the word “witch” written in a gothic font, to fiery finish, Wytches is a stylish, compelling, phantasmagoric new series that will leave you both bewildered and eager for more. Snyder and Jock manage to create a visceral experience with a stunning combination of menacing Grand Guignol atmosphere, dazzling colours, gory violence and an interesting set up that goes beyond the typical feel of a first issue.

From the very start, Wytches sets an oppressive mood. Between the first and second page, the letters appear scratched as if dug in by fingernails. Its unconventional, confounding style does more than virtually any other comic of recent memory to create an unsettled mood. Scott Snyder, a writer who made his name in the horror genre before moving on to mainstream superhero work, plants many seeds for a potentially disquieting little character study. What makes Wytches #1 so harrowing is the sense of unequivocal dread that’s seeded in every panel – as if at any time something could jump out from the page. This blend of psychological horror, high school cruelty and teen angst is a relentless assault on the nerves and stays with you as one might a childhood nightmare or a Grimm fairy tale. True to its brand, Wytches #1 has all the trappings of the genre – but the issue also spends equal time fleshing out the characters.

  • Official Synopsis:
  • Across the globe, century after century, men and women were burned, drowned, hanged, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered for witchcraft. None of them were witches. They died protecting a terrible and hidden truth: witches, real witches, are out there. They are ancient, elusive, and deadly creatures that are rarely seen and even more rarely survived.

The issue begins on August 1919, focusing on the Cray family. Tim, a young boy is walking through the woods and hears a woman crying out in pain. As he moves closer to investigate, he discovers his mother trapped inside a tree with blood dripping down her face. Her nose is cut off and she begs for help. The young boy picks up a giant rock and begins to smash her skull in. Pledged is pledged he tells her, and just like that, the opening flashback gives us a brief glimpse at the horror we can expect.

Fast forward to present day and the Rooks have just moved to a new town in New Hampshire leaving behind a traumatic event from the past and hoping the move will put some distance between the family and what transpired. Charlie, the loving father, is a cartoonist who writes children’s stories with a vivid imagination. He’s passionate about his cartooning career but he never puts his work over his family. His wife Lucy has suffered an accident that’s left her in a wheelchair, but she stays supportive and focused on being positive. Their withdrawn, anxiety-ridden, troubled teenage daughter, Sailor, is the centrepiece of the series. Sailor faced an event that has left her emotionally scarred and so Charlie decided they needed a fresh start. But as we all know, some things you just can’t run from. It doesn’t take long before this modern gothic fairy tale spins a tense and lyrical web of emotions. Between their mysterious background, and their unique personalities, the Rooks family are certainly worthy of holding the interest of  any reader, and Snyder does a remarkable job of fleshing them out.

Scott Snyder has a reputation for being one of the best writers of horror and he earns a ton of respect since he trusts his readers, and often the artists he collaborates with, to fill in the blanks. Jock is well known for his emotive, impressionist style. Even if you are not a fan of his superhero work, you’ll enjoy how his art lends itself well to horror. The ways in which he captures fear and panic in facial expressions is stunning. His landscapes are gorgeous and the characters navigate the backdrops seamlessly throughout each panel. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth (who previously worked with Snyder on The Wake), is vital in setting the mood, giving the book a dark, worn out appearance. And finally, Clem Robins’ lettering in these opening pages are tremendously powerful, making a great first impression.

Snyder is famous for his work on Batman, American Vampire, Severed, and the first half of The Wake but this is already shaping up to be the darkest tale he’s ever written. It doesn’t take long for horrible things to start happening, and it doesn’t take long for readers to feel unsafe.The stranger elements read like a fever dream, the rest resembles a Stephen King novel. Wytches #1 is a textbook example of how to do first issues right. From the twisted cold open, to the glimpse of the slender figure in the woods, Wytches sets up enough mysteries and poses enough questions to have you back for the next issue.

What Snyder, Jock and Matt Hollingsworth have created here is a stunning portrait of the disintegration, mental and emotional, of a young girl surrounded by the ugliness of the world, both supernatural and earthly.

Oh and how I love that abrupt ending…

AWESOME!

– Ricky D

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