Wytches and Witches

Paperback: 144 pages Published: 24th June 2015, Image Comics

Wytches, Volume One

Scott Snyder (Writer), Jock (Artist), Matt Hollingsworth (Colours), Clem Robins (Letters)

A personal and unique horror comic from the current Batman writer Scott Snyder, with incredible mind altering, horrific and beautiful art from Jock they have produced a very creepy comic well worth the time to pick up. The titular Wytches are quite frankly terrifying creations, they are have little to no relation with any form or incarnation of a Witch you may come across; pointy hats, magic brewing or even spells are entirely absent from this tribe of haunting creatures living in the trees, deformed and twisted faces of distorted muscles and dripping animalistic blurry behaviour are spectral in their fear.

Snyder provides his usual solid plotting, good dialogue and inflections of the personal that so often inhabits his work on Batman, yet Wytches is quite clearly the closest thing he has done to exploring his own emotions and expressions on parenting and the responsibility of growing up and looking after your child. There is certainly potential here for examining the theme of parenthood and children on modern comic production, between this and Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples you would have a solid beginning for analysis.

But I feel it’s the art by Jock that shines in this, it is an artistic display of duality, the covers are alluring and haunting, beautiful and terrifying. The humans have individual nuances and character flairs, painted in a creepy town in a rural setting by a dark dark wood. The pages often drip with colour, specks of paint flicking across the pages of a character’s traumatic discovery or ending. Plus this first volume has a quite rightly celebratory quote from Stephen King himself, which should prove worthy enough to pick it up.

Paperback: 224 pages Published: 14th March 2013, Hammer

The Daylight Gate

Jeanette Winterson

Another Winterson, another batch of witches, this time covering the Pendle Witch Trials in Lancashire, England in 1612. A fictionalised retelling of a sadly true historical event, Winterson’s bold and brash tale is a harsh portrayal of the blind male hysteria and targeted female outcasts of the witch trials, yet the dark power of the devil is not entirely absent from their dealings. An entertaining read, brief and striking with the themes and actions covered by Winterson, it’s a certainly very different perspective on a witch trial, and the portrayal of perhaps more traditional witches in a poverty stricken landscape of religious manoeuvring. It is clearly not Winterson’s best work, Shakespeare makes a cameo at one point watching a performance of The Tempest, though despite my fears it fortunately does not turn into a 17th century England version of Forest Gump. What is successful is the memorably brutal portrayal of the witches and the sexual power and relationships between the characters, something Winterson is clearly adapt at producing.

Both of these are a far cry from Mildred Hubble and Ethel Hallow however.

Comics Roundup – Nimona & The Walking Dead

It’s been a thin month for reading comics for me, aside from the brilliant The Wicked + The Divine I only managed to get through the fantastic and joyful Nimona by Noelle Stevenson and the dreary depression of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adard. I decided to not post reviews of books/comics I didn’t like as much, focusing mainly on those which are highly deserving of recommendations and praise. I shall begin with the glorious good before moving onto the bad and ugly:

Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Paperback: 272 pages Published: 12th May 2015, HarperTeen

Nimona is the complete compiled story of Noelle Stevenson’s critically acclaimed web comic and it is a joy from beginning to end. The dialogue is sparky, witty and funny, the relatively small cast of characters are emotionally and characteristically complex and brilliantly drawn. The art is colourful and fun, the pages of this edition produced in shining high quality; Stevenson drops us deep into Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart’s life and drip feeds the unique world-building with ease and fun.

I have used the word ‘fun’ a lot, which would imply there is not depth to this book; and how wrong you would be. Nimona is not a hero, she is a determined villain, a sympathetic but dangerous outcast who jumps into killing gleefully, but is terrified of a horror film wrapped under a blanket on Blackheart’s sofa. And LGBT characters! Heroic, brave, strong, cowardly and complex gay characters! It is a refreshing and entertaining relief to have such a portrayal in a fantasy comic. In this regard it shares it’s only similarity with Rat Queens, but that comic is a much more violent and sassy affair; Nimona is teaming with charm and fun like a brilliant Studio Ghibli piece, (not that Rat Queens isn’t fun, simply a very different kind, they would make an interesting double-bill of reading).

If you’re ever feeling down about lack of representation, diversity or the grim world around us in general, Nimona is the perfect remedy.

Presenting the bad and ugly:

The Walking Dead: Compendium One – Robert Kirkman

Paperback: 1088 pages Published: 19th May 2009, Image Comics

We all know the story, apocalypse, Rick Grimes, hospital, lost his family, crazy best friend had affair with his wife – shit just got real. Kirkman’s story is one of the most popular comics series there is, and arguably one of the big success stories. The TV show adaptation by AMC gets the biggest numbers on American TV and is a media juggernaut despite the ridiculous production history (I enjoyed the show initially and had seen it first before ever reading the comic, and has its own faults and flaws, a few of which have been inherited from its source).

But this is the comic, and a number of things surprised me. The dialogue in particular is often shockingly bad, either bland and uninteresting declarations of the characters emotions or feelings to one other to prescribe their personalities to the reader or huge amounts of dry exposition and detailed slow explanations of their plan of action. The art was perhaps the most surprising, the famous black and white images often favouring large splash pages and extending scenes across pages were now and then striking. But Tony Moore (Issues #1-6) and then Charlie Adard’s (Issues #7-present) art have issues with children; their bodies are misshaped and uncanny.

They look like shrunken adults to me. But now the stickiest of the Kirkman problems: portrayal of women. The show has this issue too, and has been unconvincing in its attempts to fix it, despite an array of fantastic actresses with badass skills and weapons they seem unable to construct a convincing, rounded person when it comes to women. While the men fight, the women wash clothes.

The most laughable moment comes after Rick and Tyreese have a violent bro-down. Dale informs him of their new democratic circle of elected members to make decisions, all of whom are men. Rick questions this and is told by Dale that:

“The women don’t want to, I think they just want to be protected”

And that simple line of dialogue says it all really. It is a strange creative decision to me, Kirkman has constructed this unbalanced sexism, then has his protagonist question it before being explained away as if it’s a fact of life. Women want to be protected by men.

I could go on with numerous examples but I think the picture of this world is understood. And Kirkman is so wealthy and successful from this work that my brief complaints about it will hardly damage his reputation or influence anyone, so it was a relief to have a brief rant.

And now to read everything Noelle Stevenson has ever produced.

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Wilson & Cowles

Every ninety years twelve Gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.

If you haven’t read the first volume, The Faust Act, there are no spoilers in here from me, apart from recommending you read both immediately.

Paperback: 168 pages Published: 1st July 2015, Image Comics

Volume 2 is the continuing story of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s parable on the culture of these 21st century God’s of music, following seventeen and ¾ year old Laura’s sudden rise to fame, and the power and corruption of fandom. Collecting issues 6-11 the vibrant colours, ethereal gorgeous young Gods and their devoted cult followers transcend into a more developed study on the implications of ‘Fandemonium’. With more of the pantheon introduced the pages breeze past in a visual and structural catharsis for the eyes, with Gillen’s focus on the God’s flock of fans McKelvie’s art takes a noticeable leap in the experimental splash pages. The previous issues contained this as well of course, the bright coloured numbered panels shooting themselves across the page in the middle of a rave.

Almost every issue in this collection contains a stunning splash of inventive storytelling with the medium, not only is this comic a prime example of a fantastic and entertaining story embracing modernity, but also demonstrates the key relationship between the writer and artist of a comic, and just how vital an element it is, often ignored by many in reviews and the media. The pace increases in these issues, we are provided more background of the nature of the existence of these doomed to die young Gods, more sex, divine states of timeless raving and plenty of hedonistic violence with just a click of the fingers. Gillen is also clearly revelling in the twists and strings he can pull with these young characters, and when you close the final page of this collected trade it’s not just the God’s who are tangled up in their fate to die.

I doubt there is a more brightly coloured and inventive comic you can read at the moment. Dive onto the dancefloor, and make sure you keep your head.