Shelby: Speaking broadly to make my point, I’ve found there are two types of people in the world: people who like horror and people who don’t. I (probably unsurprisingly) fall in the former category. I’m a big wuss about scary movies, even though I really appreciate them, and at Six Flags’ Fright Fest this year my friend Selene had to hold my hand when we went through the haunted houses (no joke: I am 30 years old), but I still get and like the thrill of being scared. Horror novels have always been my jam; I started on Goosebumps as a kid, graduated to Fear Street in middle school, and straight on to Stephen King in high school. It’s no surprise, then, that I am loving Scott Snyder’s Wytches. Again, no joke, I am writing this with all the lights off, wrapped in a blanket, listening to an album of horror movie music. After all, pledged is pledged.
Things are not getting any easier for Sailor. The Annie-monster attack left her with scratches, cuts, and a strange lump growing on her neck. Even stranger, the lump appears to consist of tissue that’s even older than Sailor. When she sees the woods outside school filling with monsters coming for her, she decides she’s had enough.
I have to interrupt myself for just a second to heap praises upon the art team of Jock and colorist Matt Hollingsworth. Jock’s pencils aren’t quite the over-the-top gore scary of an 80s slasher flick; they’re the the kind of horror that you hate to look at but are too afraid to look away. There’s a sort of morbid dread to his work which is perfectly accentuated by Hollingsworth surreal texture and colors. Seriously, I accidentally zoomed in on that last panel until it filled my laptop screen, and it made me a little uncomfortable.
Sailor heads to the woods to confront the creatures she can see and feel growing inside her, while her father is ambushed by the bald man(?) we saw outside the Rooks’ house last issue. When he demands to know what has happened to his daughter, the mysterious figure blows some powder in his face and says, “I’m sorry Mr. Rooks, you never had a daughter.”
One of the many qualities that makes Scott Snyder such a phenomenal writer is his ability to build tension. We’ve seen it over and over in his Batman story arcs; he knows how to take time to ratchet up the horror in a story without losing the action that keeps us hooked. That’s not to say his stories are slow-moving at all; hell, we’re already seeing Sailor confront her demons, and this is only issue two. He just has a way with doling out the story in small enough pieces that the reader is left both satiated and wanting more. This issue gives us some pretty big chunks of information; we learn that the car accident that put Sailor’s mother in a wheelchair was caused by one of the creatures lying in the road. Maybe it was less of an accident than we’d like to think. We also learn more about Charlie Rooks’ mirror world; it’s a place where all children’s wishes come true, which sounds awesome, until you realize the consequences of getting whatever you want without having to work for it. When you can wish for anything and know you’ll get it, it doesn’t take long for everything to become worthless, to lose all meaning and importance. Kind of like how pledging someone’s life in exchange for having your wishes granted can make it real easy to forget the value of the lives around you.
I know I already mentioned it, but the art team on this book is absolutely stellar. My favorite panel has to be when Sailor and her Uncle Reggie first see the creatures in the woods.
They look so organic, you almost don’t see them at first. Once you do, though, you can’t unsee them, and you can’t look away; there’s a small fear there that, if you do, when you look back they’ll be closer. And I love the splatters and textures underneath the image; it feels like we’re looking at film that’s been double-exposed, like someone took pictures of a horrifying crime scene, and then used the same film to take a picture of the scene we’re seeing. There’s fear and horror in the scene, for sure, but Hollingsworth adds an undercurrent of a deeper, more disquieting fear. As bad as what we’re seeing is, there’s something darker and worse lurking under the surface of the image, under the surface of the story itself, just waiting to come out.
Seriously, I have to turn on some lights, otherwise I’m never getting to sleep tonight. Drew: Those final few pages are doozies, to be sure, but I can’t help but feel the issue leading up to it was kind of mediocre. Taylor and I described the first issue as “underwhelming but enjoyable,” and I think the cageyness of the first two thirds of this book mine diminishing returns on their questions. Mysterious forces working in mysterious ways on mysterious characters can be intriguing, but the longer it’s drawn out, the more it feels like we just don’t have anything to latch onto. For me, that’s why those closing images are so exciting, but mostly have me looking ahead to the next issue: they promise the answers neither of the previous two issues delivered.
I should clarify: it’s not that I expect (or even want) all of the mysteries of this series to be solved in issue 3, just that our understanding of exactly what those mysteries are be on firmer ground. I’m a firm believer that questions are more interesting than answers when it comes to long-form storytelling (I’m an unabashed Lost fan), but I’m not even sure what the questions are yet. Right now, it feels like the narrative form is “series of random creepy events,” which I was comfortable with for setting the tone in the first issue, but feels a little directionless here.
It also feels like Snyder and Jock are casting just too wide of a net when it comes to creepy events. A home invasion from a bald, legless person is in an entirely different universe of creepy than a chair lift mysteriously repairing itself to such a degree that I’m not sure why the latter even occurs in this issue. Indeed, between the home invasion, the chair lift, the visits from Annie, the neck eyeball, the creepy coma patient (and his mysteriously refilled IV bag), and the car accident flashback, this issue is feeling like the horror equivalent of the “Too Many Cooks” video — somehow all things at once, and way more than could ever really make sense.
The real problem is, the first issue already did a great job of establishing that creepy tone, to the extent that I’m not really sure what this issue contributes to the narrative other than those last few pages. I was on-board with the first issue being about setting up a sense of dread with the understanding that this issue was going to deal with the fallout of whatever happened in Sailor’s bedroom, but this issue quickly diffuses that event, skipping us a few days ahead to a quiet domestic scene, then gets back to building that same sense of dread.
I get the sense that I’m Taylor in this situation — foolishly wishing for instant gratification — but I actually like that meta-narrative even less. “Be careful what you wish for” has always annoyed me as a moral, because it seems exclusively tailored for a situation where some supernatural power is granting you wishes. “The importance of working hard to achieve your dreams” isn’t a lesson, because short of the existence of fairy godmothers and genies, working hard is literally the only way people can achieve their dreams. With Charlie and Reggie digesting that moral for us, the implication seems to be that this series isn’t going to be easy — it’s going to require work and patience on our part to get what we want out of it. I’m normally for that kind of audience interaction — I’ve had a lot of fun digging into Snyder’s work like that in the past — but somehow being told to do it ignites some kind of belligerence in me. I realize this is a personal problem (I get the same way if somebody asks me to do something I was intending to do, anyway), but I don’t think anybody likes being told what to do.
But again, I’m looking forward to the next issue. Honestly, with so little narrative motion in the first two issues, it’s hard for me to even guess if I’m interested in where this series is going. I do, however, have a lot of faith in Snyder, so I’m willing to stick around at least until this thing coheres into an actual story.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?