Review: Wytches #5

In the tradition of all great horror, Wytches refuses to answer a lot of the questions it poses right away, sometimes not even in the same issue. Meanwhile, Snyder and Jock will spend a lot of time crafting interesting juxtapositions in paneling and story pacing, as well as answering questions from fairy tales that we never knew we had. Much the same as he’s done in The Wake, American Vampire, and Batman, Snyder is interested in the questions, and how far he can spread them out, more than the answers. After all, there’s only one answer; there are so many questions.

When we left Charlie at the end of last issue, his big question was, “Why doesn’t my wife remember that we have a daughter and/or that she is missing??” We pick up immediately after that, as the local policeman conveniently shows up--with ulterior motives. The flashback portion of the issue is an incident with Sailor bemoaning her depression making her feel that she doesn’t exist (Cotard syndrome?), and her mother Lucy is in a hospital bed with a huge shiner. In the present, Charlie makes his way into the den of the wytches themselves to rescue Sailor. Easy as it was for him to get it, it’ll be even harder to get back out.

Wytches-#5Scott Snyder loves himself some large-scale metaphors. This issue, in a series about a man and his daughter who are both plagued with crippling bouts of depression and sinking into self-pity, is about them both literally descending to the depths of the nest of evil, and trying to get out. It’s not necessarily on-the-nose, largely due to the choice of genre; anywhere else but horror, this would practically be a myth, it’s so chock full of symbolism. The issue itself speaks to one of the most basic symbols of the human experience in the way we read faces. The first page is that horrifying mash-up of pain and Mr. Nice Guy, the Cheops Pain Scale (they use it in hospitals to gauge how much pain you’re in). After a page of focusing on that, you have to watch the faces in this issue. In the flashbacks, Charlie is uncertain. He looks mad, maybe at himself, maybe at Sailor (it seems one of them gave Luce a shiner and put her in the hospital--I can’t remember if it’s been addressed already or whether it’s intentionally vague which one of their neuroses won the day); in the present, he’s confident. He’s in the belly of the beast, and he’s smiling.

And of course, none of that mood would come across without Jock. He does as well with facial expressions and interpersonal interaction as he does with moody set pieces. There’s a double page in here of the tree that gave rise to the legend of the witch in the gingerbread house; it’s horrifying. These dangling, suppurating sacs of ginger hanging off the tree. It shouldn’t be gross, it’s just a plant. But jesus christ, it’s gross as hell. In lieu of horror comics being done with slavish attention to gory details and a completely void atmosphere, I’d love to see more artists like Jock, someone who can play the mood of the room for every scene for maximum impact, working on those titles. If Wytches doesn’t prove that the atmosphere can be as chilling, if not more so, than the average pile of guts in an issue of Crossed, perhaps nothing will.

This is the penultimate issue of the arc. We’re at that weird point where I can’t tell if Snyder and Jock are planning to wrap things up in issue 6 for good, if they’re planning on being a regular ongoing, or if they’re going to exist as a series of minis, like Pretty Deadly, where they’ll wrap things up and check back in a year or so. Either way, as long as they stick the landing next month, I’m satisfied; this book has been a skin-crawling ride for the last five months, and if we get one more, or six more, or 40 more, it’s a horrifying, dark, depressing, scary gift to the world.

Score: 5/5

Wytches #5 Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Jock Colors: Matt Hollingsworth Letters: Clem Robins Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/25/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital