Wytches by Scott Snyder

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WYTCHES VOL 1Wytches by Scott Snyder (writer) and Jock (artist)

Wytches by Scott Snyder is the horror book I never thought I would enjoy. I just do not like being frightened by the literature I read, and yet, I enjoyed every page of this tense story. In Wytches, a single-volume put out by Image, Snyder creates his own unusual tradition of Witches in a small town in New Hampshire. I read the entire volume cover to cover without any awareness of time passing.

Before the events of the book, Sailor, a high school student and only child, suffers bullying from Annie, another teenager. The bullying reaches its climax when Sailor and Annie are alone in the woods for a final showdown. Annie has the upper hand until the horrific Wytches enter Sailor’s world, making bullying seem like the lesser of two evils. Trying to escape the outcome of this encounter, Sailor’s parents move to a small town, but they find that they have been followed, perhaps even led, to the one place they should never have gone. It all gets worse from there as Sailor and then her father are attacked. Soon even allies seem suspicious (and for good reason). The tension never lets up until the ending, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

What kind of tension does Snyder create? To give an example, when Sailor pulls a knife on Annie, Annie pulls out a gun, escalating the situation quickly. This sort of escalation seems to build without relief throughout the book, and I am not quite sure how Snyder pulls it off. This tension is heightened by the art. Jock’s art is clear and fairly clean-looking until the Wytches appear, and then the art becomes almost indecipherable: It is hard to figure out at times what exactly is going on. In this book, however, that effect adds to the horror, because Jock forces us to use our imagination to fill in the dark places. Imagine peering into the woods at night after thinking you heard a sound. That is what it feels like when the Wytches creep onto the page: As I read, I kept looking deep into the art, thinking the longer I looked, the better I would be able to see and yet, at the same time, fearing what I might see.

Perhaps my favorite parts of the graphic novel are the backstories. In addition to finding out about Sailor’s problems with bullying before they moved, we find out why Sailor’s mother is in a wheelchair. We also discover that the father, an author, has a skeleton in his closet. The fourth character is the town itself, and we get its backstory as well, and this, of course, is a gigantic skeleton in the closet. All of these backstories are conveyed with economy, since the book is a short one, and yet, thinking back about the story, I feel as if it were a much longer one because of these layers in time and character.

I just finished reading Wytches last night and felt an immediate need to tell others about it. The edition I read has bonus material in the back that is worth reading, too: Scott Snyder talks about his discovery of horror as a young boy, why it matters to him, and why this story in particular speaks for him as a parent. As a father of two teenagers, I found Synder’s essays moving, and this theme in the book affected me deeply. Snyder’s discussion of horror is significant since he is known for his horror comics, particularly American Vampire, a comic book he co-wrote with Stephen King. So, in a single volume you get a great horror story for an evening and a series of essays for the next day. If you like horror, I do not see how you can pass up reading Wytches.


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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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