Hex Wives is a witch story set in modern America with a 1950’s aesthetic. The comic looks like a fun romp through 1950’s Americana but is a relevant story deals with the gender politics of today’s world. The story still contains many of the traditional elements from witch lore, but its 21st century themes takes center stage.
One of the highlights of the premier issue was writer Ben Blacker’s ability to create a constant sense of unease. This was done by filling readers in on the back stories of Isadora and the rest of her coven. Knowing who and what the characters were made the second half of the issue that much more uncomfortable.
Hex Wives # 2 amps up the feeling of discomfort. In issue two, readers never see Isadora and her sisters in a position of power. Instead, they are at the beck and call of their husbands. Even worse, this is not just the ladies being “dutiful wives.” The issue is a case of the women basically being mentally abused.
The writing is superb in these moments. Each page becomes more difficult to read as Hex Wives gives further insight into how the wives are being treated. The witches are perfectly content living as housewives and do everything they can to make their husbands happy. Meanwhile, the “better halves” of the marriages seem to be taking a perverse pleasure in making their wives question their every decision. It is as disgusting as it is uneasy.
The second issue of Hex Wives also does an excellent job of showing just how evil the men of the series are. Aaron in particular comes off as particularly villainous. Misogyny is always a horrible trait that can never be justified and the first issue shows the husbands at the piggish worst. Almost every little comment Aaron makes seems like a dig at Izzy that he revels in. He is so vile, his venomous words manage to make chicken salad sandwiches a weapon. This is great writing from Blacker.
On the other side of the coin, making Aaron so vile makes Isadora that much more likable. Blacker augments the reader’s natural inclination to help someone who is being mistreated. The reader cannot help but push for Izzy to connect all the dots that’ll set her free. Blacker makes this work by not making Izzy’s doubts heavy handed. She simply has an unrelenting concern.
This excellent use of not quite subtlety is something that will be interesting to watch in future issues. Currently, Blacker’s exaggerated use of gender differences works perfectly to get the message of Hex Wives across. However, it is dangerously close to becoming parody. At that point, the commentary may still be there and the message will still ring true, however making light of archaic gender roles would not fit the tone of the comic.
Andolfo continues to add to her impressive resume of work. The issue takes on less of the fantastic realism of its debut and has more of a Sunday morning comic strip look. The art fits in with the “American Dream” setting of the book. Much like Blacker’s writing, Andolfo does a great job of bringing out the true evil in Aaron.
Hex Wives #2 is a powerful comic that will be sure to draw a reaction from readers. It’s straightforward take on gender roles challenges the reader without being overbearing. Hex Wives is a great addition in the tradition of topical witch stories.