Home News From The 'Verse Comics ‘If you go down to the woods today…’ Review: Wytches #1 (Snyder...

Review: Wytches #1

  • Story By: Scott Snyder
  • Art By: inks by JOCK, colours by Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Clem Robins
  • Cover By: JOCK
  • Diamond ID: AUG140523
  • Published: October 8, 2014

“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. This October, superstar creators SCOTT SNYDER (SEVERED, Batman) and JOCK (SNAPSHOT, Batman) unveil WYTCHES, and introduce you to a world of unimaginable horror in a special EXTRA-SIZED FIRST ISSUE with 30 pages of story and no ads…”

When I first started contacting companies about supplying content for An Englishman In San Diego, my primary focus was for stuff relating to San Diego Comic-Con – the possibility of interviews, exclusives updates, news about stuff they would be bringing to the con; things of that nature. Little was I aware that, for some companies, this also meant emailing out preview materials for upcoming releases. How was I to know, when I started this endeavour, that I would get the chance to get an upfront look at comics as crafted and sculpted as this?

image - Image Comics (Wytches 01, title banner)

Wytches is an unapologetic, balls-out horror comic from Image Comics, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Brit artist Jock, along with celebrated colourist Matt Hollingsworth – it is designed from the ground up to unsettle the senses and shred the nerves. After a graphic and brutal flashback sequence which utterly sets the tone, Wytches dives straight into establishing the background of the Rooks, a family that has seen trying times, with loving and supporting illustrator dad, disabled mum and tortured teen Sailor, desperately trying to bury the events of an disappearance of a bully which she cannot possibly explain. Starting at a new school, Sail immediately starts to feel the eyes of her classmates lingering over this ‘girl with the past’ – but how can she run from her notoriety when she can barely comprehend what she saw herself? And how will the Rooks cope when those demons from the past begin to resurface?

I had heard already about this latest release from social media; Snyder, Jock and Hollingsworth had already been raving amongst themselves, all three giddy as schoolboys, rightfully proud about this thing they were preparing to unleash. Snyder had teased on Twitter about the strange and haunting artefacts he’d found walking in his local woods, posting pictures that resembed behind-the-scenes production shots of The Blair Witch Project (photos you can find in the expanded release version of this first issue), and it was only over the last weekend that Hollingsworth had whet the appetite of potential readers by posting a blow-by-blow art breakdown of a tastily violent panel.

A lions share of the credit, setting up the atmosphere of this book, goes to Jock’s artwork from the very first page: earthy and organic, looking not so much drawn as rendered from a rubbing from a tree bark, the scratches on the page making it feel like the book itself has brought bark and dirt in from the woods right onto the readers lap. A massive round of applause also goes to Matt Hollingsworth, his sumptuous work perfectly in tune here with Jock’s inks with whom he’s obviously worked very closely indeed, the palette running the gamut of the optimistic vibrancy of wide-awake, way down into the dark pallor of nightmarish dreamscape.

All of Jock/Hollingsworth’s tone comes first-and-foremost from Scott Snyder’s perfectly paced script, one which is obviously set-up for the long haul from the get-go – Snyder is intending to tell a big story, seeped in history and redefining what you think you know about witch-lore, reaching back through the ages. Very little can prepare you for the visceral impact of Snyder’s brilliant reinterpretation of the legend of the witch, something that feels very urgent and primal, clawing out from an old wives tale to grab you by the throat. No longer the classic cackling trio around the bubbling cauldron, much less than the geeky Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and certainly not the nose twitching cuteness of Samantha in Bewitched! These Wytches are a whole other ball game!

Not to say that the entire book is some dourfaced gloom-fest; Snyder presents contrasting moments of lightness, from a scene of a strong and loving father-daughter dynamic to a charming moment right in the immediacy of the family home, straight out of a Disney movie. But, at the end of the day, this isn’t a drama, it isn’t a thriller: this is a horror story, pure and simple, and nothing’s ever going to stay pleasant in the world of I so, with a wilful glee, sweet moments get rudely interrupted, often violently and graphically.

While it also is an easy thing to draw comparison for the look of Wytches to Blair Witch, the damp, reeking atmosphere actually sits more in the tone of M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Village, with the power of Snyder lying in his ability to make the reader uncertain of what they’re actually witnessing, feeling like a half-remembered fever dream. As you follow Sail’s story, like the character herself, Snyder makes you question what you’re seeing on the page – while reading the book, I was constantly reminded of that promotional tagline wasted on Ridley Scott’ half-baked effort, Prometheus: “Are you seeing this?” Is it metaphor, is it all imagery or are we, in actual fact, dealing with full-blown, realised creatures is from the Id? You doubt yourself from the entire length of the book, unsettled and unsure.
However, by the end of the book, all doubt is swept away: the threat is awake and the nightmare is most certainly real, unleashed to wreak bloody havoc on whatever target in its gaze. The question now becomes: why, by whom and to what purpose? While classic horror comics of the 60’s and 70’s would wrap themselves up in a ‘short sharp shock’ format for a monthly release, Wytches is very obviously in it for the long haul and I cannot wait until the next issue, scheduled for release in November, to see where the path into the woods will take us. Wrap up warm. The dark nights are closing in…
1 reply to this post
  1. […] They are planning to fully roll out the big guns with appearances from some of the most creative forces working in comics today, including Charlie Adlard, Kieron Gillan, Jamie McKelvie, Sean Phillips, Brendan Graham, Ales Kot, Emma Rios, Matteo Scalera, Jock and also the team behind the publishers latest smash hit, the wonderfully gothic Wytches, written by Scott Snyder and with art by Jeff Lemire. (Our review of Issue #1 gave the book quite the thumbs-up…) […]

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