Top critical review
Great Horror in a Not-Quite-Great Package
Reviewed in the United States on December 16, 2018
I love Scott Snyder's writing. I'm obsessed with Jock's art and have spent too much money on posters of his work. I'm also recently in love with horror–ˆwith the itch of familiar fear it creates in your head, the chill of realization that hits you when you realize the monsters might not be the scariest thing out there––so you can imagine that I was really excited to (finally) sit down and read this first volume of Wytches.
Except, I didn't love it. It's obviously a deeply personal story for Snyder, and his connection to the themes the comic wrestles with is clear and easily the greatest asset the book has going for it. The fears, the anxieties, the paranoia that Snyder injects his horror with are so familiar and raw that they easily make an impact on the reader. It's just...as much I loved the themes and the worldbuilding of Wytches, the characters failed to make a real impression on me.
The motivations of the Rooks family are great, and again, offer a strong foundation that the core themes of the story get to build off of. But the explanations for those motivations and the ways they manifested themselves lacked...something. I can't even put my finger on it, but there was some piece, some sharpened edge that was missing, and its absence made the characters feel more like tools for plot progression than actual, individually driven people in their own right. I was still invested in the story, but not on account of the characters, unfortunately, but on account of wanting to see how Snyder was going to continue grappling with the themes of the book.
While the story was a bit muddled, thankfully Jock's art is, as always, sharply powerful. His framing, expressions, and general eye for the most grotesquely upsetting images play a huge role in giving tangible form to the ideas Snyder's script deals with. What's didn't work for me, unfortunately, was the coloring, or more specifically, the watercolor "splashes" that occupied literally every single page of the book. These bright, colored splatters were effective occasionally––especially early-on when the actual Wytches are still kept in the shadows––but when the action picks up and the reader is supposed to be on the edge of their seat...I wasn't.
The splattered colors were distracting and actually made it difficult to read what the characters were doing on the page. It pulled me out of the story and the (otherwise effective) horror, and that's disappointing. Hollingsworth colors are good otherwise, and he adds an impressive level of mood and general discomfort into Jock's artwork, but the splatter effects felt overdone and self-indulgent, which is a problem since they're apparently a staple for the comic's general aesthetic.
Still, I enjoyed Wytches, and am eager to see where Snyder, Jock, and Hollingsworth take it next. The ideas and thematics Snyder works with feel distinctly personal, and it's that level of sincerity that gives his script just enough energy to overshadow a cast of characters who never felt fully realized. Jock's art is also great––his design for the creatures is especially unsettling––but I hope that in future installments of the series his art is less shrouded in the distracting color-splatters that seemed to keep me *out* of the book, instead of in it.