It's a new beginning for Lucy and Charlie Rooks and daughter Sailor. A horrific event has made Sailor an outcast, so the family have moved far away, to a house in the woods. Sailor's first day at school is marked by a potential friend asking the question she feared:
And things just get worse from there.
Hallowe'en comes early with this tale of dark enchantment for adults. It begins with a mother imprisoned in a tree and ends with a father in despair. In between, writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock begin spinning a web of dread, one with echoes of Shirley Jackson but fired by their own imagination and craft.
I've gone light on the recap because the pacing and atmosphere are integral to the success of Wytches, and the creators should be left to tell the story at their own pace. There are surprises. There are shocks. There's a school bully so scary she's almost a parody, but we're seeing her through the veil of Sailor's memory, so perhaps she wasn't actually a cavewoman.
Eerie events are all very well, but if we don't care about the people to whom they're happening, the work won't, well, work. Happily, Snyder's script evokes the warmth within the Rooks family with just a few exchanges, and Jock's figure and background work makes them, and their world, feel real; I especially like the look of parents Charlie (think the dad from Calvin and Hobbes) and Lucy (a wheelchair user, but don't call her 'bound'). Matt Hollingsworth's colours help scenes transition smoothly from nightmarish to pastoral and back again, while Clem Robins grounds events with his understated lettering. A shout-out, too, to editor David Brothers for solid wrangling of creatives and the no-doubt numerous ways in which he helped ensure this instalment is such an effective opener.
Wytches makes the woods scary in a way the Blair Witch Project, with its dependence on shakycam and shakier acting, never managed. I don't know how long the series is set to run, but I can't wait to see where the story of the Rooks goes. I hope they're OK.
But I doubt they will be.