It took a while for me to decide on the topic for this comics roundup post. I read them at different times (one for Halloween, the other because I saw it at the library a while back), but decided to review them together because they have many similarities. Though one is explicitly horror and the other strikes me as magical realism, both tap into our fears, what powers our fears, and our doubts about our capabilities. Also both include prominent characters battling mental illness and show the value of strong relationships. And both authors’ first name is Scott.
Wytches, Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder, illus. by Jock with colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and they are much more horrifying. Wytches takes the mythology of witches to a far creepier, bone-chilling place than readers have dared venture before. When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH, to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient…and hungry.
I forgot where I first heard of this comic, but I recall that I liked the sample pages I saw and that the person said it was scary. With that in mind, I bought it and when Halloween rolled around, I decided to read it in honor of the holiday.
Since reading it, I must agree that the artwork is good, especially the colors which grabbed my attention first, but the story wasn’t as scary as the person had promised it to be. However, it was unsettling.
In this volume, Sailor and her family have relocated to a small town in New Hamshire after a horrible incident at Sailor’s last school involving Sailor and a bully. Sailor, who has anxiety, now has nightmares of her bully returning to hurt her, but no one believes her nightmares are true. Meanwhile, Sailor’s father, Charlie, is trying his hardest to keep his family safe: updating their new home so that his wife can easily move about (she was hurt in a car accident and now has to use a wheelchair), while being supportive of Sailor and helping her navigate her fears. But despite their efforts to settle into a new life, something in the woods threaten the family and it seems there might be some truth to Sailor’s nightmares.
Okay, so that paragraph was basically another quick overview. But since the Goodreads one doesn’t say much about what occurs in this volume but still provides pertinent information, I thought I might as well give a quick run-down of what happens. Plus, how else would you get what I’m about to discuss?
The story didn’t impress me, but I liked it. The feel of unease throughout won me over. Both the story and the art added to this uneasy feeling. The illustrations are creepy despite the bright splatters across them and Sailor often feels as if she’s being watched and sometimes we see an odd figure watching her, though it’s hard to tell at first if this is real or imagined by Sailor.
Minor spoilers below.
Sailor’s relationship with her dad also helped to pull me into the story. I haven’t read many stories where children have great relationships with their parents, much less their father. In most stories I’ve read, the father figure is either absent or uninvolved in their children’s lives. But in Wytches, Charlie tries to be present for Sailor. Plus, he’s a total geek and indulges his daughter’s geekiness, which I loved. He would do anything to protect his daughter. I liked this switch in how parental figures are portrayed because at the end we learn that Sailor’s mom is the opposite of Charlie (kinda). Moms always get the good rep in fiction so I like that the father is the hero in this one.
However, Charlie wasn’t always an awesome dad. The plot, though linear, contains many flashbacks so we see the story progress in the present while simultaneously reading the family’s backstory. In a couple reviews I’ve read, readers claim not to like this structure and said it was confusing, but I liked it. This way the story doesn’t pause while we get caught up on the past. Also, I think it was done well in this comic. Placement is everything and certain panels of the past were placed next to or close to panels of the present to show how much a character has changed, such as when the panels go back and forth from Charlie fighting the witches in the present and an argument he has with Sailor in the past after Sailor’s mom was injured.
The whole idea of pledging someone stood out to me because it’s based on human greed and selfishness. However it’s also easy for someone to twist that reasoning and see it as a sacrifice, as I’m sure Sailor’s mom did, to feel better about their actions. The story is a dark one because it taps into motivations that many do not want to acknowledge, regret and doubts and greed and selfishness. It is also a story about temptations and how people resist or give in to them.
I loved the colors. The cover doesn’t give away anything. Looking at it, you can’t tell that inside is filled with bright, glossy pages that sometimes have colors splattered across them. The illustrations are great as well. I love how the characters are drawn, especially Charlie because he looks like the author, and the illustrations of the witches, which are monstrous and skeletal and creeeepy.
When there’s color, it’s usually bright, but there are some illustrations that are mostly dark blues or purples with black. But across all these a splatter of color is overlaid using watercolor and liquid acrylic on watercolor paper (I read that in the extras in the back). It gives the pages a really cool effect. (By the way, I went to the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh once and saw a piece Warhol peed on when he was done and the splatter effect reminded me of that. I know, I know, random-ass memories.)
Overall: ★★★☆☆ 1/2
The story is good and includes a great relationship between father and daughter and the art is awesome so I think you should give it a shot. If horror isn’t your thing, then I recommend just taking a peek at the pages just for the art. But really, it isn’t scary so you should give it a read too.
There are a couple essays by Snyder in the back matter that were also included in the single issues and I highly suggest you read them after completing the comic. They add more perspective to the story and show how personal this comic is to him. I get the impression that he’s Charlie because their hair looks the same (okay, not a strong enough reason to say they’re alike but, whatever). Anyway, I think it’s always good to see where authors and artists get their inspiration for their creations and Snyder lets us know in his essays.
Quote from the book:
From issue #4 essay:
“Great horror takes the things we find safety in and turns them menacing… Classic monsters are enduring, I think, because they offer ways of expressing this.”
Many have classified this as fantasy, but I’m convinced it’s magical realism.
David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier!
This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world’s greatest city. It’s about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.
Umm… I think that Goodreads overview sums it up pretty well and if you’re not already convinced to read this graphic novel, then nothing I say will because I…don’t know what to say.
When I first heard of The Sculptor, I’m pretty sure I was told that it’s about a guy who carved a girl and she came alive and he fell in love with her. I’m pretty sure that’s what whoever-told-me-about-this said. And that person was wrong!
I didn’t expect the story I got. It’s deep and moving and sometimes struck a nerve and upset me. The end, especially, almost made me cry. Though he was annoying and I didn’t like him, I liked that David stuck to his promises and remained strong for his girlfriend whenever she fell into a depression. I liked the ups and downs in his relationship with his only friend and also his struggle with his ability and getting inspired and then deciding to be a rebel.
Like Wytches, this story is about how people go after what they want, but instead of sacrificing others, David sacrifices the rest of his life. It’s a story about people’s inability sometimes to consider other possibilities. It’s about art and creativity: what is art, how to get inspired, how to work at your craft, who do you create for, should you cater to the masses or yourself. And also about life, death, how we live now, and what we should do with the time we’re given.
Since I often saw this graphic novel categorized as fantasy, I read it expecting it to be so, but by its end I was convinced it was magical realism. The extraordinary occurrences in it didn’t strike me as fantastical because the characters didn’t react to them as if they were fantastical things. They seemed quite common place to that world. Actually, the story seemed realistic despite the fact that Death appears as David’s uncle and David has the extraordinary ability to shape objects to his will.
I’m not a fan of the art. There were a couple panels I liked, but I didn’t mark them (because I was using a library book) so I’ve forgotten why they stood out to me. But I do like that it was colored using just blue, black, white. I prefer that to stark black and white comics.
Great story. I recommend it if you’re looking for something that is about art and creativity and is a bit existentialist to boot. I actually enjoyed Wytches more than this, but The Sculptor is the better story.
Oh by the way, the book is heavy as fuck cause it’s damn near 500 pages. Prepare to lift weights, if you get a physical copy.