Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
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A lot of screwed up people out in the world have been waiting a long time for more Wytches content, and it’s finally here with the Wytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special one-shot. It’s been nearly five years since the all-star creative team of writer Scott Snyder, artist Jock, and colorist Matt Hollingsworth began one of the best horror stories to come to comics in the last ten years.
I hadn’t read a single page of Wytches until about a week ago. The series has been in my sidecar for years now and every time I thought I’d finally get around to reading it, something always got in the way. This all changed when a preview for Bad Egg came across my Twitter feed.
What I got from it was that this story is a play on The Fox and the Hound, except instead of a kindly old owl watching a natural predator befriend his prey and make friends with talking forest animals, we’ll see two young boys have their friendship and lives destroyed as their families murder one another. Wholesome stuff, right?
Naturally, after this delightful first look at the series I just had to read Wytches immediately. So I went out, bought it and finished it shortly thereafter. That was about a week ago. And now I’m spoiled enough to immediately get another story, and it’s a Halloween special no less. So let’s talk about it.
At the start of the story, Snyder’s preface tells us that new character Sebastian will be playing a big part in the second installation of Wytches, expected at some point in 2019. This story actually takes place before the first arc and acts as a great starting point for new fans of the series, so don’t worry — if you haven’t read the first installment, you can still enjoy the nightmare.
Snyder wastes no time getting to the action. Within the first few pages we’re introduced to Sebastian, a young boy who narrowly avoids being fed to a monstrous creature, which he later learns to be a wytch, thanks to the timely intervention of his mother Clara — the Irons member and wytch hunter we first met in the initial Wytches story arc. The Irons hunt down and destory wytches and the humans who worship them.
There’s a lot of lore here. In fact, Bad Egg does a far more thorough job of explaining the history of wytches, sucklings (the humans that worship them), and the wytch hunting Irons who oppose them than the first story arc does. Sebastian and his mother move from town to town as she hunts and destroys wytches and sucklings. But now it’s Sebastian’s turn to do the hunting, and despite his mother’s insistence that he avoid forming any lasting friendships, Sebastian becomes best friends with a boy named Jackson, and that’s where our story really begins.
Jackson’s parents are High Horn, humans who specialize in helping newborn wytches grow, through a method that’s beyond disturbing. Fate, being the cruel mistress that she is, has Sebastian’s first Irons mission being to kill his best friend and his entire family. To make things even worse, Jackson is ignorant to his parent’s true nature and completely innocent.
There’s eighty pages here and Synder’s pacing is perfect from start to finish. I never felt rushed or that I just wanted him to get on with it already. The build to the inevitable horrible end was masterful. The cold seed of dread you get planted in your gut at the start of things grows and grows until you find yourself saying “What the actual fuck?” as the enormity of how truly messed up and disturbing the story really is hits you. You think the bad guys are bad, but it’s not that simple — it’s so much worse.
There are so many panels that are a complete mess of colorful splatter patterns blotted across the page, and yet, Jock and Hollingsworth make it work. And it’s not just that they make it work as something that’s passable either, it’s that they make it look amazing. Hollingsworth has one of the most unique coloring methods I’ve ever come across and one of the many reasons I recommend the Wytches TPB is because the back of it offers a look at his process. Understanding how much work the guy puts into making this comic book look this cool will make you appreciate it so much more.
Part of what makes the wytches look so terrifying is how unnaturally they appear. Their faces are elongated with rows of long, spaced out, jagged teeth. There’s blood saliva and who knows what else slobbered all over their gaping maws. The limbs are long, postures bent and their all-white eyes are stuck on one side of their head at a sloped angle. Add in all-white skin and an unnerving “chit chit chit…” noise and you have yourself a nightmare machine. Everyone be sure to thank Jock for your newfound fear of going into the woods. But seriously, the man knows how to inspire fear through his art.
As with the Wytches TPB, this story ends with a letter from Snyder to the fans. It illustrates just how much his passion bleeds through his writing. It illustrates how much he cares about what he creates. And it illustrates a real person who has to face his own deepest fears every day through being a parent. Snyder takes all of that and channels it into a story that feels so deeply personal that the fear and the intensity we experience are that much more authentic because of it being crafted from what haunts him most.
I’m thankful to Scott Snyder for sharing his fear with us. And I’m thankful to have two truly sick and twisted individuals like Snyder and Jock creating comic books.
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