Wytches scared me to death. I don’t scare easy. The only horror movie that gives me a semblance of fright anymore is the original Halloween, primarily because it relied less on visual gore and more on creating suspense. It teases the gorier moments, but rarely actually showcases it. That’s what makes things scary. The unseen horrors of it all.
Wytches, the new comic by Scott Snyder and artist Jock, is all about hiding the unseen moments from you. Sure, there are a few minor moments of gore and blood here and there, but those are mostly used to give a situation more impact. The real horror comes from not knowing what the wytches are doing to their victims. Early on, you see a woman trapped in a tree with her face poking out. This seems odd at first. How did she get in the tree? Why is she there? But then her child comes up to her. We don’t know if he’s going to help her, but she seems desperate. This is where the horror comes: the kid doesn’t help her. He lets her die from a presumably gruesome fate. This scene is all about tension-building. The climax itself is scary yes, but what adds more impact to the scene is the build-up to it. The deadpan facial expression Jock gives the kid vs. the look of shock and horror on the face of the kid’s mother is a great parallel. All of this is done in 4 pages. The book has great moments of horror elsewhere, but it’s not the only thing the book does well.
If there’s another thing Wytches is great at, it’s developing and defining characters and their relationships with each other. The way Snyder writes the lead, Sailor Rook, he fully embodies her personality in the span of a few pages. Here is a frightened young girl with loving and protecting parents who just wants some semblance of fitting in with society. Jock gives this personality a perfect visualization by dressing her up in overtly large clothes, glasses, and a misshapen hat that hides a head of pinkish-red hair. Even the parents are fully developed, both through visual cues and dialogue. We can infer the mom was either born paralyzed or had an accident (related to the wytches perhaps?) and we can tell the dad (who looks strangely like Jeff Lemire) is a bit of an artsy type through the way he dresses and what he talks about on the pages.
For me, the real meat of the book comes from the interplay between the more character-centric scenes and the moments of outright horror. The prior is given brighter colors and real visual warmth (courtesy of colorist Matt Hollingsworth) and the latter scenes are given hues of black and blue, being heavily shaded to create a pervading sense of dread. When the two coincide with a mix of grays, purples, and reds, it intertwines wonderfully with the scene at hand involving a bully, a mix of the real-world stuff and the horror material. Wytches finds the perfect balance between the two.
What Snyder and Jock have created is a masterpiece, plain and simple. To me, the best horror (at least when not in film form) tends to be visually centric, even when its a series of words on a page. I have to be able to create the centralized scene in my head, and not be distracted by lesser details. Jock owns this book, but Snyder’s words help complement it instead of being a nuisance (this is why Snyder is one of my favorite writers. Dude’s handle on prose and dialogue is ridiculously good). Wytches is a treat for the Halloween season, and is the first thing to scare me in a damn long time.
My rating: 4.5/5