|Review by Lily Fierro|
The Halloween season is about to reach its climax.
Each year, as October unfolds, Generoso and I end up watching a questionable amount of horror.
Ghouls, demons, zombies, ghosts, and vampires fill up our minds as we watch horror films and think about the other ones we’ve enjoyed in the past.
Despite our movie watching bias toward the things that creep in the night this month, I must admit that I rarely read modern horror comics.
When I first started watching horror films a few years ago (under the supervision of Generoso who knew I did not have much of a stomach for the slicing and slaughtering common in modern horror), I started with Dario Argento’s Suspiria at the Coolidge Corner’s All-Night Halloween Marathon. While watching Suspiria, I began to realize that horror not only evokes fear and studies the psychology of it to better understand humans but also can be visually beautiful.
I felt the same exact sensation while reading Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches.
With horror and any genre, I always wonder how much further a new work can innovate and bypass the archetypes and motifs already deeply rooted and often assumed in the genre. While I’ve come to adore horror, I always get a bit nervous before I embark on a read/watch with the fear that I’ll see the same thing with a different shell. I had a similar concern when Wytches came across my digital desk, but with Wytches, Snyder creates a new type of witch and explores the manifestation of evil in a unique way.
To remind you to leave all of your pre-conceived notions of witches at the door, the series opens up with a definition of the term, and on the next page, shreds it completely up with a visually impressive technique that makes even my digital copy look like the page had an unfortunate fight with vulture or a panther. The witches in the Snyder and Jock realm do not have a human shell. They do not worship the devil in satanic rituals. They do not cast spells. They are not women. These witches are more of a primordial sort; they are the embodiment of the malevolent spirit of the earth, ancient yet timelessly terrifying and omniscient in understanding and manipulating the worst of what lies inside of us.
As supernatural non-humans, the wytches of Litchfield, New Hampshire act as the quiet lords of the town. Most of the town’s denizens have been aware of them and have been complicitous for generations on allowing the creatures to survive, for the witches don’t really feed on little children in cauldrons; they feed off of human selfishness, fear, and hubris.
If you pledge a life to the wytches, they will grant you anything you wish.
Unfortunately, the Rooks family is not aware of the sinister influence of the wytches of Litchfield. After Sailor, the daughter of the family, experiences an accident where a bully disappears into the clawed grasp of tree, Charlie, the father, moves the family into the secluded town of Litchfield to attempt to escape the rumors around the accident and the memories of another accident that crippled Lucy, his wife and the mother of Sailor. In the small town, nothing appears as it seems, and the Wytches creative team uses splotches and filters of reds, blues, and greens to emphasize an overall tone of dread.
Sadly, the Rooks cannot run away from their known and unknown past, and in Litchfield, their full past rises to the surface. As all of Charlie’s insecurities as a parent well up when Sailor disappears into the woods, we begin to understand the true nature of human evil.
Wytches creates a fascinating and eerie mythology to explore human morality. Sure the wytches are monsters that capitalize on human weakness. They make great antagonists with their Alien-like jaws and raptor claws; they are bad, and no one would question why you would want to eliminate them.
However, the true antagonists in Wytches, like in the popular zombie sub-genre of horror, are the humans who pledge the lives of others for their own; these antagonists act on their impulses on greed, lust, and even survival, all very human sentiments. For Snyder’s world (and really our own), evil stems entirely from the selfishness from humans rather than the wytches themselves.
Like the best pieces of horror, Wytches definitely packs some shudders, but it is ultimately an observation and analysis of human behavior. Read it before you go out trick-or-treating; it will make you take a second glance at any tree, and most importantly, it will subconsciously remind you to share your candy!