The thing about Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches is that it is not a story about good people. You can go into any book, and no matter how many times a creator says, “This book is dark. This book is about exorcising my demons,” you hear it and assume the writer is misleading you, and there will be a hero. There will be someone who rises above the attendant darkness and redeems themselves, and by extension, this dark world in which they live. Wytches is not a book where that happens.
With this fourth issue, Sailor finds herself trapped by the wytches, while her dad Charlie, understandably horrified by what happened to him in the previous issue, goes hunting for answers to how to stop these “wytches” that he’s starting to believe in. Meanwhile, the issue cuts back and forth with a very dark incident in Charlie and Sailor’s past that reveals how they both deal with their intense anxiety issues. That’s the long and short of the story. Part of the beauty of Wytches is that it’s easy to sum up every month but there’s a lot of meat on them there bones. For better or for worse, Snyder still writes (in his creator-owned stuff especially) like a prose writer, someone who can take the barebones of something and turn it into a compelling issue with the dialogue, the relationships between the characters, and his preternatural ability to find killer artists (e.g., Sean Murphy, Jock, Rafael Albuquerque, if we’re counting American Vampire).
The writing of Wytches has fallen into a little bit of a repetitive cycle; each issue, we’re introduced to an episode from the Rooks’ family past, we follow Sailor on her adventures, and we usually get an episode of either her past or her father’s past, or an episode in which her father failed (or believed himself to have failed) her, and his guilt over it. In the middle of all that, usually in Charlie’s part of the story, there’s an act of horrifying violence to which he is witness. For Snyder to exorcise his demons in this way, it doesn’t not work, it’s just another slight crutch he’s leaning on. As far as crutches go, it’s not plot-stopping exposition and it’s not wild scenes that are completely out of character, so I don’t mind them, it’s just getting easier to see the cards before he deals them.
Jock’s art continues to educate and astonish this reviewer in each issue. There’s one particular page where Charlie is arguing with a man who has opposed the wytches in the past, and what could have been a fairly pedestrian (although occasionally horrifying) dialogue sequence gets life breathed into it by Jock’s panel layouts. At first, they look haphazard and scattered, and with the way that Charlie’s been thinking this issue, a little chaos is to be expected in his life. Then you come to realize that each panel is tilted towards a certain other character’s POV, and they’re basically just dutch angles that actually do what dutch angles are supposed to do by disorienting the reader and heightening the tension of a scene. Seriously, there’s at least one page in each issue where Jock makes me feel like I’ve never read a comic book before and I’m discovering it all again, and that kind of mastery deserves literal applause.
I’d be remiss not to mention Matt Hollingsworth before I leave you. The man’s colors have always had the sort of drained and muted palette that’s been fashionable in horror movies for the last decade or so (I would say the extreme example is The Ring--almost no color but grey in that flick), and he makes it work in a comic format. There are still tones to this book, but they all hide behind this cloud of dread, which gets punctuated by the analog paint splatters Hollingsworth uses throughout. Seriously, I can’t stop thinking about how wrong I was about those splatters a few issues back.
This book is good for what ails ya. There’s a longish essay in the back by Snyder about what draws him to horror and what he thinks it does (a lot of it will remind the canny reader of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, not least because Snyder’s primary childhood touchstone is The Eyes of the Dragon), and it’s well-written if not enthralling. The points he makes resonate forward and backward through the story of Wytches: for as dark as this book is, you get the sense that it might be his easiest book to write every month, and that--that is truly scary.
Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Jock Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth Letterer: Clem Robins Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 2/4/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital