Beware Scott Snyder’s “Wytches”

Don’t get me wrong, there are some fine superhero comics being written right now at both Marvel and DC. Hell, Scott Snyder is one of the people writing them, breathing such grim, beautiful life into Batman that it’s arguably some of the best writing ever done for the Caped Crusader.

But it’s over at Image where the best in the business are pumping out creator-owned works and utterly redefining what comics can be. That’s where Hawkeye genius Matt Fraction is unleashing the madness that is Sex Magic and the nearly indescribable ODY-C, and where Brian K. Vaughan puts out Saga, which is simply the best comic in the world right now. And now it’s where Scott Snyder has come to ruin your sleep with Wytches.

On its surface it’s nothing terribly original. There’s something evil in the woods, and that’s a story that goes back before human language. In a way, though, that’s Snyder’s point.

The last century has made witches seem sterile as horror antagonists; even American Horror Story failed to frighten with Coven. But witch stories—such as the ones Snyder says he would tell his friends as a kid—used to have teeth. They were usually barely discernible from tales of ogres, with cannibalism, torture, and other things from a Saw film being commonplace. There’s a reason Disney hasn’t ever made a big budget Hansel and Gretel, and why the Evil Queen got off easy by falling off a cliff in Snow White. Witches—both in their cruelty and their comeuppance—were metal.

But Snyder’s Wytches reaches hard for those terrifying specters of fairytales of old, and largely accomplishes it. His witches combine the oppressive fear of ghosts with the ghastliness of zombies, and even a nice bit of body horror in the mix. For example, coming into contact with them can lead to bizarre infections. It’s a masterfully written narrative that attacks you on several levels, and even for a master of horror like Snyder has always shown himself to be, this is a work of utter genius.

Like all great scary tales, though, Wytches is about growing up. It’s about finding out that your parents can protect you from monsters under the bed only because they don’t really exist. When there’s a world of horrors, be they crazed psychos or just a bad car accident, all of reality looks like a scary movie. Snyder is just putting a witch’s mask on it is all.

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