Editor’s Note: Welcome our newest ICBIS staff member Grahame Turner! As a part of Horror Month, we’re going to be recommending horror media we think you should check out. Here’s Grahame with some creepy comics.
There is a sensation non-bespectacled readers may not be familiar with: there is a moment when you first put on a new glasses prescription when the world is presented in a sudden new clarity. Like seeing HD video for the very first time. In that moment, you realize how bad your old vision was. For days afterward, you’re realizing how much you were allowing your mind to fill in for details that were too blurry.
I describe this so that everyone understands how it feels flipping through the pages of the ongoing horror comic Wytches, from Image Comics, and suddenly realizing what sets the art apart. The collected trade paperback of the first six issues should be available in local bookstores, and together they hit all of the regular beats of a horror movie.
In the opening pages, a woman is trapped inside a tree, pleading for freedom through a tiny knothole too small for her to climb out of. Through this vignette, we learn of some practice called “pledging,” and that people take it pretty seriously. The story then jumps to find the Rooks family, a writer and his wife and daughter have recently moved to a rural, forest-heavy new town. Immediately comfortable territory for fans of Stephen King’s work, as it doesn’t take long for weird, creepy things to start happening.
Sailor, the daughter (yes, that’s her name), is trying to escape a situation at her previous school, and spends about half of the series dodging questions about whether she murdered someone–and trying to cover the weird eyeball growth that appears on her neck. Her father Charlie spends a lot of his time working on a story about a kid who learns about himself at an abandoned theme park, and cleaning up discarded body parts from animals and people apparently under control of the wytches. Her mother spends most of her time in a wheelchair.
The Wytches spend most of their time being generally creepy and possessing who or whatever will meet their end. These are not your Hogwarts professors, nor are they the Wicked Witch of the West-type characters. They are akin to Greek deities: make sacrifices to us, and we will bless you; ignore our wishes, and pay the price.
I bring up the glasses thing because of an interesting feature of the art style. The artist, JOCK apparently), makes good use of space, putting panels in interesting places that keep the flow of the story moving. You can almost tell whether a page is going to be rising or falling action based on the edges of the panels: white means good, black forebodes creepiness. The characters look great, the monsters look scary, and there’s a general feeling of uncomfortable grittiness. This discomfort is due to the trick I didn’t even notice he was doing for four issues. I only noticed it because of an art breakdown in one of the back pages.
When the action is creepier and the images meant to unsettle, there is a subtle overlay of blotches, scratches and whorls of unnatural colors. This Pollackian motif gives the impression that the entire story is being told through the lens of a found camera, covered in some of the suspicious greases and fluids characteristic of the wytch burrow, battered from the battles unfolding on the page. It’s the kind of magic trick that, even after the magician has broken his cardinal rule and explained it to you, is still fascinating to watch being pulled off.
Here’s hoping for a second arc of the story, although no release date from Image just yet. The first issue was available, free on the web briefly. Word on the web is that the series has been optioned for a movie, so give it some time, and it’ll hit a new medium too.
Pledged is pledged…