Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review: Wytches

Looking back at last year, I saw that I covered a lot of different sources of Halloween delight, but I didn't really cover anything from comic books.  Today, that changes, as I actually found a horror comic that's well-crafted, well-written, and well drawn.

I'll admit, I've always had a hard time taking horror comics seriously.  You have a visual medium that can be skipped around in without any of the additional hassle of rewinding a video or interrupting the flow of a spoken story.  If you skip ahead on a page, you can just dart your eyes back up to catch up again.  One of the only comic book stories I can remember really giving me chills is a rather famous story line in Neil Gaiman's Sandman where the main character is drawn to goings-on at a Cereal Convention, which the convention hall runners mistakenly think is about toys at the bottom of morning breakfast food boxes, and not something much, much darker.

Wytches, however, manages to- actually, I was about to say something here about hope (which, you might all remember, was a big theme in the last two posts I made), but I think I need to supply some more back story here involving the creators.

Scott Snyder has been one of the premiere writers of Batman comics for some time now, doing some of the best work that's been happening in DC's "pointy-eared" part of the world for quite some time.  Runs of stories like Death of the Family and The Black Mirror (his first story involving the Batman mythos, if I remember correctly), have garnered the books he writes some of the most attention a Batman title has received in, well, quite some time.   He's managed to take one of the darkest corners of DC comics and provide gritty, emotional tales while still keeping that spark of (again) hope present, that somehow a guy who dresses up like Dracula and drives a rocket car can make everything all right in the end.

Jock (possibly his real name?) is a long-time artist for DC comics as well, having worked with Scott Snyder on his Batman works (particularly The Black Mirror, again if my memory serves me right) but also on Hellblazer, 2000 A.D. (read: the Judge Dredd comics), and Green Arrow: Year One, a title that directly inspired the setting and tone of the TV series Arrow (much of the inspiration came from Jock's artistic style, making the city dark and moody).

Pictured: Mood.
Together, they worked on Batman-related titles, but in this book the two throw the rules and restrictions of mainstream comics out the window.  "Hope" is very hard to find, and the book doesn't shy away from disturbing imagery.  As I was going to say before, Wytches manages to fill me with the same feelings I had while reading that one short part of Sandman, with brilliant pacing, well-drawn environments that are both simple yet full of background detail, and providing just enough information that your mind fills in the rest of the holes and makes it scarier than any writer or artist could ever hope to present.

The story focuses on the Rooks family, particularly their daughter Sailor.  After Sailor is involved in an "incident" involving a bully at school, the family moves out to a new town to try to start again.  Her father is the author of a series of young adult novels, and her mother was involved in a car accident and is restricted to a wheelchair ever since.  As they try to settle in to their new lives, Sailor discovers that rumors from her past have already caught up with her, and something dark lurks in the woods, targeting the family and Sailor in particular.

Now, there are usually things I shy away from in books.  For example, I tell people I love Raymond E. Feist's novels, but I always advise people away from Faerie Tale if just because of a scene where the family's teenage daughter is nearly raped by a supernatural being.  Wytches has some pretty intense scenes of violence, near-sexual abuse (sexual near-abuse?), and extremely harsh language (it's always that last one that gets you the "M" rating, you know), but it manages to set a very strong mood through the book that helps and amplifies the tension you feel while reading it.

Pictured: Not the scariest scene in this book!
Snyder and Jock follow a lot of the classic rules of horror that remain effective to this day.  They don't show us the real monsters until a good way into the story, and continue to let the danger level build and build as the main characters struggle to get ahead of it before it overwhelms them.

It's a dark, terrifying story, one with a lot in common with such other horror stories as- ah, but if I have something to compare it to, I'd spoil some of the big story events.  I recommend simply picking up the book from your local retailer.  Or heck, ask me if you can borrow it.  I'll loan it out.

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