Graphic Reviews: Wytches

This week in Graphic Reviews we’ll be taking a look at witches. And these won’t be the green-faced, broomstick-riding hags you see every Halloween. In Wytches, we get an entirely new nightmare, courtesy of Scott Snyder’s writing and Jock’s artwork. Snyder claims Roald Dahl’s book, The Witches, Stephen King stories and his own love for horror movies as inspiration for Wytches and it’s easy to see. This isn’t one of those horror stories that’s over-the-top gruesome and immediately terrifying. The witches in this story aren’t human, they’re primeval and disturbing. More than any monster however, Wytches is terrifying because of the terrible things that people will do to each other. People have always scared me more than monsters and Snyder and Jock perfectly play on that in Wytches. So far the series is a single arc of six issues but according to Snyder and Jock, they’re already planning at least a second arc if not more.
Wytches is the story of Charlie and Lucy Rook and their young daughter, Sailor. After some ugly accidents which plagued the family, Charlie has moved them to the remote town of Litchfield, NH so that they could try to start over without the shadow of the past hanging over them. Litchfield may be small, but an incident with a bully has made Sailor notorious even there and she struggles to find her place. This isn’t helped by the dark woods that surround Litchfield and it isn’t long before Sailor and the rest of the family find out that there’s something waiting out there in the woods. As it turns out, it isn’t just monsters and witches that Sailor, Charlie and Lucy should be worried about.
The story focuses particularly on two characters of the Rook family: Charlie and Sailor. Snyder and Jock set Sailor up as the quintessential horror movie survivor. She’s kind of a weird kid. She’s anxious and shy, with occasional debilitating panic attacks and has difficulty making friends. Add in her past with the bully and she makes for a pretty good underdog. She has moments where she shines in the story but honestly she doesn’t get truly compelling until almost the end of the story when you get to see how clever she is rather than just seeing her as a horror archetype.
Charlie on the other hand was fascinating from the very first issue. Charlie writes kids books for a living and at first he seems like the dad that every kid wishes they had. He’s funny with a silly, dad sense of humor and just seems like so much fun to have around. But as the story progresses, Snyder teases in flashbacks that make it pretty clear that Charlie hasn’t always been the World’s Greatest Dad. In fact, he’d be a candidate for Asshole of the Year for some of the things he does and says to Sailor in those flashbacks. But this is what makes Charlie so interesting as a character. He’s flawed but it’s incredibly obvious how much he loves and wants to protect Sailor, even when he’s clearly failing. So much of the story is the struggle between Charlie’s need to protect Sailor and the terrifying realization of every parent that no matter what they do, they may not be able to protect their child from everything.
Since this book is all about witches, it’s worth discussing the monsters a little. So much of the brilliance of this story is difficult to discuss without spoiling anything so it’s going to be a little short on the details. The monsters in Wytches are truly disturbing. Incredibly tall and only vaguely human, they’re a manifestation of the fear in the heart of every sane person who looks into a dark forest. Hard to know what lies in the shadows and these witches are not creatures to be messed with. What makes this story so incredibly creepy however is how the monsters get their prey. The wytches are very specific in who they come after and it is slowly revealed that it’s the selfishness and treachery of people, not the monsters themselves, which doom their victims. You can always tell yourself that monsters aren’t real but knowing that there are terrible people in the world that do terrible things to others is what makes this story so disturbing.
The strength of Wytches as a horror story is the realistic, creepy way in which it builds tension and draws the reader into the story. The characters feel flawed and real and the more you know of them, the more you desperately want them to survive as the horror mounts. Snyder feeds you a number of red herrings and I was completely shocked when the twist at the end. It has many familiar horror elements if you’re at all familiar with the genre but between Snyder’s creepy writing, Jock’s amazing artwork, and their rather unique take on witches as a monster, it’s not a story to be missed!

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