I have three fears.
Spiders. Heights. Water.
Besides those things and the movie Event Horizon, I’m not afraid of much. I’ve been through too much, seen too much, and have had my sensitivity worn down over the years.
I started early with the horror movies. Now, they might not be all that terrifying now, but The House, Aliens, and Predator to a kid aged in the single digits had a pretty dramatic and lasting effect. There were nights when I couldn’t sleep because I had an image of an extraterrestrial being coming down from the mountains and looking into my window with infrared vision.
It’s the sort of thing that comes to mind after experiencing what Sailor Rooks sees at the end of Wytches #1 — Scott Snyder’s new Image title with artist Jock. When I first heard Snyder was working on a horror-style Image title, I was excited at the prospect. If anyone could scare me with a comic, it would be the man who put the fear in Batman — and we all know Batman doesn’t scare easily.
That the pairing would include Jock — an artist with an abstract style that has a creative reach — made it that much better because horror to me isn’t just gore and monsters. To really scare me, it has to be psychological, and Snyder’s ability to get into the heads of his characters matched with Jock’s way of thinking outside the box form a creative team that will be responsible for a lot of underwear getting dirty.
It all starts in the woods with a wounded woman somehow trapped inside of a tree. As something ominous approaches from beneath her inside the tree’s trunk, she’s discovered by her son Timothy who asks where she’s been. Timothy goes to pick up a rock as the woman explains she’s been pledged. Upon hearing that, Timothy strikes his mother in the face as he says, “Pledged is pledged,” and watches unphased as she’s pulled away by cruel and violent hands.
Family members breaking bonds and supernatural forces hiding out in the woods — the first four pages spell out what kind of lines will get crossed. I wasn’t about to go into the woods alone before I read this issue, and I’m not about to any time soon.
The prologue’s 1919 setting also adds a historical element that hints at what’s to come for Sailor’s modern-day journey as a haunted teenager who was left unconscious at the scene of her bully’s death. No one besides Sailor really knows what happened, and the inexplicable events have created a sort of notoriety that follows her to her new school.
So without giving it all away, the verdict on Wytches #1 is that it’s great. The lore is there as well as the suspense and mystery. This is a complete package that not only brings it in the story and visual department — it also adds another dimension by invoking the other senses. The “chit chit” sound effect is chilling, and it echoes throughout the issue.
Jock’s art relays an eerie tone that’s broken by explosive scenes that are intensely visceral. When Sailor’s bully Annie is taken by the wytch, no punches are pulled. It’s something you can’t unsee, and the image will burn itself into your brain for a while.
On the psychological front, Wytches #1 is a tour de force, and if you’re a fan of the Silent Hill series, you won’t want to miss this. The atmosphere is very similar with a strong sense of foreboding, and that’s due in part to Matt Hollingsworth’s colors which play up the drama in unlikely ways. Whether it’s Sailor’s incredibly bright yellow lenses on her glasses or the chameleon palette that switches it up page to page, Hollingsworth doesn’t play par for the course. When a cute visitor turns up at the Rooks’ residence, the horrific scene plays out one of its brightest pages. The contrast is unsettling, and it works.
As the first issue, Wytches #1 does more than produce a sharp hook. It will get its fingers around your spine, and fans of the creative team will get to see them work on a title without the tethers that come with producing a comic about a beloved superhero. Wytches is Sndyer, Jock, and Hollingsworth on a difficult mission to keep you awake at night, and so far, their magic is pretty strong.
In listing all the things I’m afraid of so far, you can add Wytches to the list.
Wytches #1 (2014)
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Words: Scott Snyder
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Clem Robins
Next Issue: Wytches #2 Review