Comic Review – Wytches #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

There were a lot of great comics out this week, but Wytches is a book I have been looking forward to since it was announced a few months ago. This is a new horror series from Image Comics written by Scott Snyder, with art by Jock, colours from Matt Hollingsworth and letters by Clem Robins. All of those people have worked on something that I have loved, so having them team up to bring this new story was pretty exciting.

Wytches. according to Snyder in the last few pages in which he recounts his inspiration for the story, involves the real witches, “No brooms or pointy hats.”, an ancient evil worshipped by those who were burnt at the stake in their place. They creep around in the darkness of the forest, granting wishes to those who bring them pledges: human sacrifices. This first issue opens with one of these pledges in 1919, before moving up to present day and introducing the Rooks family who have just moved to a new secluded home in the woods. Charlie is a graphic artist and writer, and he and his wife Lucy and teenage daughter Sailor (nicknamed Sail, an interesting name) moved to get away from some unpleasant events that took place where they used to live. Lucy is wheelchair-bound following an undisclosed accident and Sail, after months of bullying, witnesses the disappearance of her tormentor. Starting at a new school, Sail’s reputation proceeds her and everyone assumes that she killed the girl. We are shown that while Sail may have wished for it, and she continues to obsess over her potential involvement in what happened, she was certainly not the one who killed her bully. Sail may have unwittingly had an encounter with the Wytches in the forest that night and even though they have moved, the Rook family may bump into them again sooner rather than later.

Snyder is really at home writing horror, on clear display in the excellent American Vampire, but also more subtly influencing the work he has done on Batman. The actual titular evil takes a back seat in this first issue, making way for character development for the key cast and scene setting, which serves to make the world feel fleshed out while the glimpses of the threat really builds the tension and fear. Jock is an excellent horror artist, with his creepy and scratchy style a perfect fit to illustrate the dark woodland setting. The colours from Hollingsworth really accenuate and bring the best out of Jock’s art too, and while I’m used to more pastel colours from him, he shows off a really dynamic range contrasting them in calmer daylight scenes with the oppressive dark scenes taking place in the woods at night. The art all together ramps up the terrifying aspect of the story, with a few stand out panels that are certain to haunt some dreams and cause readers to look up into any trees they walk past in the darkness.

Shockingly, I enjoyed this. Wytches #1 is a great start for a horror series, living up to the hype built up around it. This first issue is bound to sell out, but Image are good at extra printings for their titles so more will be out soon. Pick this up either physically or digitally, it should be a great ride.

Score: 8.5 Pledges out of 10

Comic Review – Trees #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I read Trees #1 by Warren Ellis, with art by Jason Howard and letters from Fonografiks, published by Image Comics. This was another case of not hearing about a new series, seeing a nice shiny number one issue on the rack with a well known writer’s name on the front, judging whether or not the stack of comics in my hand is already too much (it probably was) and picking it up anyway*. I must admit I haven’t read as much Warren Ellis as I would have liked, his Transmetropolitan seemingly a permanent fixture on my ‘to buy’ list of collections.

Trees takes place ten years after first alien contact with Earth, in the form of huge monolithic ‘trees’ that suddenly landed across the globe, devastating communities in the cities they struck. Even years later, mankind seems to have accepted the presence of the trees despite knowing almost nothing about them. No beings have emerged, no communication has come through, they just sit there. And they very occasionally “dump waste” which appears to mean “crap acid over everyone, melting people and buildings”, which apparently has happened six times now. Why anyone would live anywhere near one if there is the slightest potential of that happening is beyond insane, but then again I’ve visited Naples in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius where we were cheerfully told that it could erupt at any time, and there definitely wouldn’t be enough time to evacuate the whole city. So aside from the horror of this, the alien interlopers are a total mystery. We are introduced to an array of different and seemingly unconnected characters – a man running for New York mayor, a young aspiring artist moving as close as he can to the trees, and some scientists studying one in Norway. None of them immediately jump out as the lead, but all are compelling for different reasons.

The writing is strong, with perhaps only the dialogue between the mayoral hopeful Vince and his friend/advisor Del feeling a touch exposition-heavy. It reads well enough, it could be passed off as rhetoric from Vince to explain why he wants to run for mayor, and we need this information somehow, it just feels a bit stark. The prologue got me invested enough in the story, and the bleakness of an enemy that doesn’t seem to know or even care that we are here, with some very brief narration over the action. I think I would have preferred some of the details of the original landing to unfurl more organically over a couple of issues. That really is nit-picking though, and it wasn’t really a problem at all. The pacing of the issue itself is really where the story shines, giving very little away but showing the scope of the world as it is now. This scope is illustrated very effectively by Jason Howard (as ‘artist’ I assume he did colours and all), showcasing each locale with a different colour palate to contrast them perfectly. My favourite panel was probably the iconic vista of Rio de Janeiro marred by trees dumping their waste into the city at the start.

This was another great first issue of a new creator-owned series, and again I will definitely be keeping up with it as the characters are fleshed out and Ellis explores the mystery of the trees and why they are here, largely dormant and uncommunicative, and what they are going to do. I fully recommend picking this one up from your local comic book shop or online retailer with your tablet/smart phone/internet-linked cyberbrain.

Score: 8.5 Weird Robot Police Dogs out of 10

 

* The delay of Batman #31 over here in the UK to next week (due to a printing error or something I equally don’t understand) helped reduce my costs this week, but I wasn’t overly happy about that.