Comics: In ‘Wytches’ the monsters are scarier than men

No such thing as a good 'wytch', here.
No such thing as a good ‘wytch’, here.
Writer Scott Snyder and illustrator Jock have teamed up for the first time since their 2013 hit Batman: The Black Mirror to invite readers into the dark pages of Wytches, an American comic series with its own take on the mysterious, typically feminine figure known as the “witch.” Published by Image Comics in 2014, this comic follows a young teenager named Sailor Rooks, a girl haunted by panic attacks, social anxiety and literal monsters clawing at her window.

Lead by her caring but troubled father Charlie, Sailor’s family moves to the small town of Litchfield, New Hampshire, where they discover their new neighbors are prey to a cluster of strange beings known as wytches. Uncovering the town’s dark secrets one by one, Charlie and Sailor struggle against human and non-human alike to save each other, unaware that Sailor’s life has already been pledged to the monsters—and in Wytches, “pledged is pledged.”

If the title isn’t enough of an indication that Wytches is exploring a unique interpretation of the pointy-hat-wearing, cauldron-brewing figure, then one glance at the first few pages will make this clear. Bette Midler and Hermione Granger should stay far away from these horrific beasties. Instead of flying broomsticks and chanting newt-ridden spells, these wytches spring from trees and consume the bodies of their victims whole. But what makes these wytches even scarier is the fact that they are merely acting on the wishes of Litchfield’s citizen, who pledge—or sacrifice —the lives of others to obtain personal wealth.

Bette Midler and Hermione Granger should stay far away from these horrific beasties.

“You pledge someone, you get anything you want from their fucking science,” explains a particularly shady Litchfielder. “Dodge illness. Add years. Make someone love you.” The true danger of Wytches, as in all great horror stories, is not the monster under the bed, but the neighbor who pushes you underneath.

No one is in more danger in Wytches than Sailor Rooks, an anxious girl seeking only to start a new life and walk away from a troubled past. In a particularly moving scene, she confronts her father about her own anxieties, describing such moments as being “like a pit you fall into…like suddenly you’ve fallen into this place where everything is telling you the worst is coming…And you can feel the truth of this deep in your cells.”

Her father, Charlie, must also balance his own fear of losing Sailor with the knowledge that she must inevitably do so alone. His love for Sailor—and his desire to protect her no matter the cost—infuses this horror comic with a touching sense of authenticity. “[Parenting] is like a vital organ walked out of your body,” Charlie explains, “and if something happened to it … ”

In Scott Syder and Jock’s Wytches, something does indeed happen to Sailor and her determined father, tendering a scary and provoking story that will make you wonder whether there really can be such a thing as a “good” witch.

Chloe Livaudais is a third year MFA candidate in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She currently lives in Iowa City with her husband and two cats.

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