If there was one comic that got the entire Adventures in Poor Taste team excited to read this year more than any other, it was Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock. It didn’t matter what the premise was, we all just wanted to read it badly. With so many of us just dying to read and possibly review it, we decided why not all of us do it together? As such, we present to you the first group review for AiPT team on Wytches. All together now: Is it good?
Wytches #1 (Image Comics)
After a lovely opening with the Cray Family in 1919, we begin our tale in present-day (9/6/14 to be exact) with a modern family, the Rooks. Charlie, the father, is working on a new children’s book for a popular series; Lucy, the mom, is going about her day settling in; and Sailor, the daughter with an odd name, is trying to get a fresh start in her new school. They just moved into this new area a month ago and are trying to adjust after a very unfortunate incident. However, sometimes you just can’t outrun the darkness…
Dave: So far I’m sold mostly because at its core this comic is about bullying and teenage awkwardness, which is something everyone can relate to. As far as the bigger story of these Wytches, as this issue shows us a flashback but not much else, I think the reader gets just enough to be interested but not so much that the mystery is lost. That said, the threat to conclude the issue loses a bit of its bang seeing as it’s a blind threat and not tied to anything we know yet.
Greg: Sure, everyone’s afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West when they’re children (and some never grow out of it), but other than that, we’ve never really had a singular, terrifying vision of witches in modern media in the same manner that we have for ghosts and vampires. Perhaps Jock and Snyder will change that with Wytches, and the refreshingly disturbing sense of mystery and dread surrounding the titular creatures. But more than that, this looks like it is also developing into a family drama and a coming-of-age story, and if that is the framework around which Snyder and Jock continue to build horror, I’m excited to see how this story develops.
John: Scott Snyder provides a gripping introduction to the world of Wytches. The opening sequence sets a deeply horrific tone, which keeps the reader wanting to find out exactly what being “pledged” entails. Snyder and Jock amplify the shock and the horror by creating calm-before-the-storm sequences. This maximizes the fear factor.
Jordan: Primarily, the story here is laying down the groundwork for what we’ll be seeing this arc and introducing our unfortunate main characters (I hear things will be changing as arcs come and go). It’s not a bad setup at all, since it does a great job at hooking you in with all the mysteries that are building, the character drama happening, and new horrors we’ll be seeing soon. It honestly makes you want to read more and that’s what a first issue should do: get the audience interested in the story. Though I will say it was a jerk move to cut the story at that moment. Darn you Snyder!
Nick: I still have no idea what this new concept/idea of ‘wycthes’ are, but the lack of answers never feel frustrating. Instead, the Rooks family gives us a sub-narrative that is not only fascinating to follow, but serves as a great window into how this is all going to eventually play out.
Sam: Wytches #1 had just enough compelling story to make it a very worthwhile debut of a series. There’s a healthy dose of mystery, intrigue and some good character introductions, making it a very pleasant narrative to follow. The story sets up for some future scary moments without treading too much on horror cliches. We also spent just enough time with the Rooks family so we got to know them with the cold open and flashback scene to mix things up a little bit.
Sean: It’s Wytches, bitches! An intriguing first issue with enough scares to unnerve. A lot of well-played time hops merge in this foray into the dark woods of what I’m guessing is New Hampshire, due to a line about not having to pay taxes by Charles Rooks, the father in our story. You get some creepy tree gags, a flucked up deer routine, and a bully-school shooter type who gets hers. Not to mention an unnerving line about a “dick brusher.” Truly terrifying. I do wish the end of the issue was a little clearer though. It’s confusing exactly what occurs, but this might be a problem with the art, so I’ll discuss this further on in the review.
Tyler: The story has the elements for the makings of a good horror comic. It has some truly dark moments which are offset by light-hearted humor, however those scenes are short-lived as most of the comic is conducted under a dreary tone. This is not going to be a feel-good story or an inspirational, character awakening chronicle showcasing supernatural beings and magical powers. The only thing this will be inspiring is higher electric bills because you won’t want to be left in the dark for some time.
Dave: Sailor is a strong protagonist and it’s very easy to root for her after this issue. I’m not so sure about her parents, particularly the mother, who are more of a stand in as the “knowers of the past” and not much else. There’s a strong moment between Sailor and her dad in the opening pages, but from there I’m at a bit of a loss as to why I should care about them.
Greg: Sailor Rooks and her father, Charlie, represent two tropes that I’m easily drawn to because of how easily I’m able to relate to them: bullied teens and struggling artists, respectively. I’m sure they, as well as the other major characters introduced, will develop more nuances as the series goes on, and it’s fine for a debut issue that we only learn about the character’s traits in broad strokes. I already like the father and daughter’s shared penchant for macabre humor, which I’m sure will prove to be foreshadowing something more sinister.
John: The two main protagonists are Sailor and her dad, Charlie Rooks. The two have a very good relationship and Charlie deeply cares about Sailor. Snyder and Jock build them as everyday Americans. Anyone can see just a bit of themselves within Charlie or Sailor. They have normal experiences: dealing with a boss, experiencing chemistry class, and facing down bullies. However, some of their conversations seem a tad childish for a high school-aged girl. The most intriguing of all of the characters is Timothy and wondering why he would do what he did really keeps the reader hooked.
Jordan: The comic does a solid job of presenting and making us care about Charlie and Sailor Rooks right off the bat. They feel really human, their emotions are genuine and you honestly understand how much they care about each other, especially in their opening scene. We don’t get much of a look at our titular “wytches” here per se, but they do have enough of a presence to make an impact on you. The only weak parts with the characters so far are the mom, since she didn’t get to do much, and the bully character, who feels like an exaggerated bully that came straight out of It or Let Me In.
Nick: This book epitomizes why I love Snyder’s work. Since the project’s announcement, all I had really been thinking about was the concept: How are these ‘wytches’ different than usual folklore, what will they look like, what will they do, etc.
And if you look back at the issue, we really don’t get much information at all on that front. Just some creepy good artwork from Jock and a couple of cryptic moments in the script. But by the time the story’s first chapter is over, I’m fully invested in the Rooks family. The characters are believable, flawed, and most important of all, interesting.
I’m not sure if Synder plans to keep the story revolving around the Rooks for an extended period of time, but I already dying to know what happens to them in the next issue.
Sam: Sailor seems convincing enough because her struggles are in no way artificial and are something I think many people can relate to; her issues with bullying make her a very troubled protagonist and seem to define her, at least for now. The dad was a little bit ham-fisted with all the role-playing games and children’s book writing but I’ll give him some time to develop. My only real complaint with the characters was that Sail just didn’t seem to have much of a personality, she just seemed like a girl with bad things having happened to her. Hopefully as we get further into this series we’ll see her develop into a girl with some defined personality outside of just her struggles with bullying.
Sean: Who names their kid Sailor? Seriously. No wonder she got picked on. Meet the Rooks family: Charles the father and comic book professional (he’s either an artist, or an artist and writer), Sailor the teen daughter with a checkered past, and wheelchair-bound-after-a-not-expounded-upon-accident momma. It’s nice seeing a diverse family, but Sailor seems a very stock, artsy-awkward-teen girl. Perhaps the teen daughter cardboard cut-out was purposeful, to make her seem like a regular teen, and in this regard Snyder succeeds. So, going forward, would like to see Sailor grow a bit, and I would have liked to hear more from the mother, such as what her name was, or literally anything, but pressed for space and time and story and all that.
Tyler: The Rooks family dynamic is presented in an authentic manner, making a convincing case that this could be any other new family on the block. By creating this genuine depiction of teenage struggles, parental concerns, and family interactions, Snyder is better able to slip in fantastical elements within a realistic storyline and make it that much more terrifying. However, the mother feels like more of a placeholder than an integral character at the moment. Charlie could easily have been written as a single parent so hopefully the mother shows is given a larger role going forward.
Dave: I think Nick makes a valid point about how this fits into folklore and a big reason we’re even thinking of it is because the story is presented in a great way. It opens with a flashback, typically a no no, but it works to establish what we’re witnessing isn’t some random story of a monster, but something much bigger. Something that isn’t roving around at random, but tied to a set of rules and code people live by. Some might call it religion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more into that realm as the story progresses. The dialogue is great as well and it isn’t Snyder’s customary extra long deal either.
Greg: Snyder tends to be rather verbose, at least in relation to other contemporary comics writers, so he seems to be taking a more restrained approach here. There’s no internal monologuing, either, which has become something of a trademark of his writing. This approach works, especially for a horror comic, because it allows for a greater sense of mystery. As usual from Snyder, Wytches boasts strong dialogue and tight pacing, but Snyder tends to play the long game with his plots, so we have every reason to believe that this will only get better.
John: Snyder’s writing is very good. At one point he fluidly transitions from classmate bonding to reliving a past experience. This is done so well the reader does not even need to be reminded it is a past experience; it is intuitive. He makes a number of wonderful transitions throughout the book. However, there is one sequence, when Charlie is making a call to his boss, where the flow is a little bit confusing. Letterer Clem Robins and artist Jock attempt to provide clarity, but it is all too easy to confuse Charlie with his boss as the panels switch between who is on which end of the phone.
Jordan: I find this to be a very well told and constructed tale here. The story structure and flow are excellent, never feeling like we’re getting too much or too little horror, while not taking away from the characterization or story. The pacing is solid, but it does feel like it slows down at points during some dialogue-heavy scenes. Speaking of which, the dialogue is pretty good overall and feels a bit natural, except during the bully scene where it gets a bit too over the top.
Nick: I agree with Jordan on the bullying scene. That part started to get a tad ridiculous.
But otherwise, the dialogue flows very well and the story moves along at a great clip. The flashback scenes are also well handled, neatly inserting themselves into the narrative without bogging it down.
Sam: For the most part, Wytches #1 is quite well written. The writing aids the horror but doesn’t slow things down or make them clunky, but rather enhances the scares. Again, Sail’s dad was super cheesy which made the story seem a little less authentic, but I can get past that. The one real complaint (in line with what Nick and Jordan have previously said) is the request the bully makes of Sail just seems a little over the top almost to the point of perversion, but I suppose it is in service of the story and was just used to create drama.
Sean: All the dialogue works, and then we get to the flashback scene with the bully. This is a pivotal scene, which allows the reader to understand why Sailor is so anxious about going to a new school. Yes, the dialogue is over-the-top when a bully brandishes a gun, and tells Sailor to fuck herself with a knife handle while she films it or she’ll shoot her. But really, the most over-the-top aspect of this scene is that a school bully would take their victim into the middle of the woods to pick on them. Bullies are social animals, and they thrive on an audience. So, dragging someone into the woods to hold a gun on them? This strikes me as something Sailor would do, but not as something a bully would go out of their way to do. I almost would have preferred it if the weapons were reversed, and if Sailor held the gun on the bully girl, and the bully girl started with the knife. All the lesbian stuff in the flashback scene in the woods does seem a little wonky, though.
Overall, the pacing, dialogue, and characterization merge well, despite the somewhat jarring flashback scene with the bully at around the halfway point of the first issue.
Tyler: As mentioned above, there are points where the dialogue is a bit excessive considering the nature of the situation, but I do appreciate how Snyder is willing to the envelope. The language used can be overtly explicit, but it does contribute to the distressing nature of the book. Once you start at page one your heart rate doesn’t begin its decline until about fifteen minutes after you’re done.
Dave: I’ve always loved Jock. His work is moody and efficient. There’s definitely some layering going on in this issue, from pencils and inks to color. The color is a bit wild at times, but as far as mood there’s no other like Jock, which is probably the most important thing when it comes to horror. I will say this though: there’s a scene with a deer that I just didn’t understand. It’s clear it’s a deer and where it is, but what happened?!
Greg: As I’m sure is the case with many other readers, I discovered Jock’s artwork for the first time with the excellent Batman: The Black Mirror, also written by Scott Snyder. That’s a superhero story tinged with horror, so it’s good to see Jock doing straight-horror with the same writer. Jock is a talented artist that seems as confident in his abilities as you would expect from a guy that goes by just one name, and colorist Matt Hollingsworth definitely keeps up as a collaborator. Like Jordie Bellaire, he gets a lot of mileage out of a limited color palette, though his colors here are more painterly and less muted than they are on some of his other work.
John: Jock’s artwork is good. He is able to create drastic differences in tones when moving from peaceful, normal New Hampshire life to the absolute creep and horror show within the woods. Matt Hollingsworth’s color transition from bright yellows and blues to grays and blacks captures the change in tone perfectly. Jock really captures the sheer terror in the facial depictions of a number of the characters. The action sequences are extremely well done and those panels demand a “Holy Crap” response.
Jordan: The art was just great here, ignoring some minor hiccups. The layouts are very well done and can help build up some very effective moments. The characters look good, easily distinguishable and emotive (though it was hard to tell exactly how old Sail was at first). The art’s very good at depicting the more horrific and disturbing scenes, providing a lot of memorable imagery that just sticks with you. The coloring is good as well, but it feels a bit off in some areas (like its going through a filter effect or something).
Nick: Jock was meant to draw horror comics. Not only are there some great individual shots, but the atmosphere that his layouts/pencils create are superb.
He also handles the more mundane stuff as well. I know that seems like a throw away compliment, but it really is important to a story like this. When an artist for a horror comic tries to make everything dark and scary, it takes away the impact of those moments. Jock, however, is able to lull us into a sense of warm serenity before slapping us awake with another terrifying image…or a dead deer.
Sam: I love Jock with all my heart, and I dare say, this is some of his best work yet. Sometimes he tends to be edgy but also a little over the top and kind of messy and hard to follow, but in Wytches #1 his work is clean cut and easy to read while also being appropriately dark and horrifying. This is a great balance and makes the story just that much creepier and more upsetting.
Sean: The faces and forms are good, as are the panel to panel flow. Jock has a away with faces, and is able to draw some delightfully twisted things occurring to the human body. Occasionally his psychedelic use of color splashes on the page make it somewhat hard to see what is occurring, especially in the scenes in the woods, but the overall style it adds makes up for the tiny bit of visual dissonance.
Tyler: I’m incredibly picky when it comes to art, especially for a horror comic where no matter how good the writing is, a poor panel can sabotage the entire mood. Jock does an excellent job creating alarming images that you can’t help but flip back to.
Dave: I read this comic on an airplane, which I suspect is the worst place to take part in horror. Unless that horror is about a plane crashing, there’s too many people around me to fall into that fear zone. That said, I still found the last few pages creepy as hell. The most horrific moment actually took place between the bully and Sailor per a request of the bully. A disgusting and horrific request at that.
Greg: I like horror, but other than a few moments from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, comics rarely scare me. Wytches may be the rare exception. I’ve read a lot of Snyder’s work, and while he definitely has made a name for himself in the past as a horror writer, I don’t think he’s ever been quite this vicious. There are scenes here that aren’t just scary, but deeply upsetting. I suppose that’s a good thing for a horror comic, but perhaps not for my mental health.
John: Wytches #1 provides readers with a steady dose of horror throughout the book and especially leaves the reader feeling terrified on the last page, allowing their imagination to take hold and dream up any number of truly terrible scenarios.
Jordan: Creepy? Yes. Puts you on edge? Definitely. Scary? Oh yeah! This book for sure really does horror right and provides some very chilling and terrifying images at points, especially in the opening. It does a great job at building mood and tension throughout, actually keeping me nervous during the calm and quiet scenes. There was only one time I felt more confused and WTF than actually scared by the book, and that was during the deer scene. Otherwise, very effective horror title that has my attention.
Nick: I read this in McDonald’s on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon. It still manages to give me the willies…or maybe that was the McFlurry working its way through my large intestine…
Whatever the case, Wytches did a great job of portraying the horror of these creatures just from their presence and being hidden in the shadows. Imagine how scary it will be when they come out in the open!
Sam: I read this book, wanting, more than anything else, to be terrified. I waited until I was totally home alone, threw on my PJs, turned off all the lights and started to read. And, although I was completely primed and ready to have my pants scared off, I was a skosh underwhelmed by the horror of it all. The opening just didn’t do it for me—it kind of felt a little artificial—and I know that’s not going to be a popular opinion. If Scott Snyder could have really scared us without the use of a young child in the very first scene, I would have been much more impressed and frightened.
That’s not to say that this comic didn’t have it’s terrifying moments. The moment of horrific bullying was appropriately horrifying and was one of the scenes that really made this comic ‘horror.’ Also, all the pages that were set at night put me ill at ease; that wytch version of Annie was super freaky!
For me, however, the scariest part had to be the essay Scott wrote in the back. I could really relate to that feeling of fear that he described and it gave me a lot more realistic an image of wytches and how they could really scare you.
Sean: It’s very accessible scary story fare, save for the flashback scene with the bully where Wytches almost turned into what I like to think of as social horror, and what most others would refer to as psychological horror or, the term I loathe the most in this world, “torture porn.” For avid horror readers, cruel gun-toting bastards issuing demands are nothing new, but I can see how this might turn off a casual horror fan not accustomed to the various sub-genres and tropes. Still, all the stuff with the people and things in the trees,the concept of “pledging” people which is as yet explained, and a deer going nuts that wanders into the Rook family home? Fantastic, spooky stuff. And God, a set of teeth left in the yard; that really got to me.
I loved all the horrific elements, even the ridiculous bully played like a new-age B.T.K. Wytches is a great read for this Halloween season, and I’m going to recommend it to as many people as I can.
Tyler: I made the mistake of reading it alone at night and I applaud any comic that makes me get up and close my window for imagined security. Wytches is able to unsettle you without explaining the basic premise of what a wytch is and what they’re capable of. God help us when Snyder is able to dedicate more to these creatures and less on character background.
Is It Good?
Wytches #1 was a fantastic comic from what we saw. The writing, the artwork, and horror elements here are all sound. While some liked it more than others, we all came away from this comic with an enjoyable and creepy as hell experience. Wytches #1 is definitely recommended and worth a look this Halloween season.