Clearing Out the Backlog #3: Is Reading WYTCHES Like Listening to DEATH GRIPS?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a huge backlog of comics to read. I’ve decided to create this column to force myself to start catching up. Every couple of weeks, I’ll be posting short reviews of what I’ve read while Clearing Out the Backlog.

wytchesvol1Wytches volume 1 by Scott Snyder (writer), Jock (artist), and Matt Hollingsworth (colorist): This series wasn’t what I was expecting it to be and I’m really happy about that. At times, I have problems with Snyder’s work. His endings feel weak to me, even maddening in the case of Severed. I was worried that Wytches would be another Severed situation (I think I’m still upset about this comic because it had such potential and it ended so badly. I’ve forgotten the details of the ending by now, but I’m still left with feelings of anger when thinking about this book.), so I decided my best course of action would be to wait for the first trade with the $9.99 price. After reading volume one, part of me really wishes that I had read this as it initially came out.

Reading the first six issues of Wytches in one sitting isn’t exactly an experience that I recommend. Don’t get me wrong, this series is very good. Outside of The Black Mirror, I would say that this is Snyder’s best work. As someone that deals with anxiety myself, I found this horror series featuring the monstrous wytches to be very relatable. In the backmatter of the book, Snyder talks about how personal this series is for him and it clearly shows. Wytches has a real feeling that most of Snyder’s other work doesn’t have. Jock’s work is solid here too and compliments Snyder’s writing. It’s pretty when it wants to be and, dare I say, ugly when it has to be. The linework is as rough as the story and certain pages are packed with panels to give a claustrophobic feeling. I feel like the most interesting creative choice in the series comes from Matt Hollingsworth and his colors.

Over his regular coloring of Jock’s work, Hollingsworth put a layer of spatter over the art. For the most part the spatter is complimentary colors to the coloring of the line art. Initially, when I finished this book I strongly disliked the spatter. It’s really abrasive to look at and at times, it makes it hard to discern what is happening on the page. It’s a lot of visual noise on the page. This is a loud comic. And that brings me to the title of this column. The experience of reading Wytches is a lot like the experience of listening to an album by Death Grips. If you’ve never listened to Death Grips, you’ve probably heard your one music nerd friend talk about them at some point. Their music is loud. It’s aggressive. It’s abrasive. The opening track of their 2012 album NO LOVE DEEP WEB, Come up and get me, sounds like Wytches looks to me. Just like Death Grips challenges you to listen to them, Wytches challenges you to read it. In a different time, this comic would have a warning accompanying it. “READ THIS COMIC… IF YOU DARE!”

A look at spatter used by Hollingsworth over Jock's art.

A look at spatter used by Hollingsworth over Jock’s art.

If I had read this series issue by issue as it was released, I don’t think that I would have had such an initial adverse reaction to the spatter. Looking at it for six issues straight takes a toll on your eyes. If you can get past it though, it rewards you. It’s rare that almost a week after I finish reading something I’m still thinking about the coloring, but here I am. Wytches is a really good comic with a group of creators that are firing on all cylinders. They know what they want out of this work and they’re nailing it.

Fantastic Four #243 by John Byrne (writer/artist): The cover to this issue is both one of the most iconic Galactus images and one of the most iconic things that John Byrne ever drew. In this issue, the Fantastic Four save Galactus from his Herald gone rogue, Terrax. The weakened Galactus then turns his attention to Earth. He’s growing weaker and weaker and he needs to feed. It’s hard to humanize a character like Galactus, but Byrne manages to do it. Galactus is desperate and his will to live puts him directly at odds with the FF and all of Earth. What follows is a pretty awesome fight scene with the Avengers standing with the FF to take on Galactus. Quite possibly the best moment in this issue comes when Daredevil and Spider-Man look to join the fight, but realize that they are completely out of their league and decide to stay on the sidelines instead. Byrne gives himself a chance to draw a lot of different Marvel heavy hitters in this issue and they all look great. John Byrne was one of the best.

Seriously, this cover is amazing.

Seriously, this cover is amazing.

Spectacular Spider-Man #189 by J.M. DeMatteis (writer) and Sal Buscema (artist): This issue is one of the 30th Anniversary specials that came out of the Spider-Man titles in 1992. You’ll easily recognize the covers. The center of the cover contains a hologram of Spider-Man in some pose with a colored border surrounding the image. A textbox near the bottom of the cover promises three things:

  1. “Inside: The Final Battle with the Green Goblin!” There’s certainly a battle with the Green Goblin, but it’s far from the final battle. In this issue DeMatteis lays the groundwork for the Spider-Man/Goblin relationship for the next several years. I feel like the Green Goblin has lost his luster as a Spider-Man villain over the past decade or so. I’m trying to think of the last great Goblin story and I think you have to go back as far as the Paul Jenkins/Humberto Ramos run on Peter Parker: Spider-Man from 2003. Regardless, this is a solid Green Goblin story. I’ve never noticed before this, but it looks like there’s a lot of Sal Buscema’s influence on John Romita Jr.’s art.
  2. “Plus: Bonus Gatefold Poster!” Yup! It’s a really fantastic painting by Charles Vess.CVessGoblin
  3. “Plus: The Origin of Spider-Man!” Because we needed to see that again. This time around it’s Spider-Man’s origin through Aunt May’s eyes, which is a different take. The five page story by DeMatteis and Bob McLeod is dark. We’re used to the story of Peter, who lost his father figure. What we don’t get to see very often is the story of May and the loss of her husband. We tend to focus on Peter’s loss, but this story really gets across the feeling of loss felt by May. It’s an emotional five pages. I can’t really say that I enjoyed reading this, but I can say that it was very well done.
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Who ARE these people!?

Kelly Harrass is a comic shop worker and writer from Milwaukee, WI. You may know him as one of the regular hosts of the PoP!-Cast and the co-host of PCW. Find him on Twitter @comicgeekelly and email him at kharrass@panelsonpages.com

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