In the latest issue of Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterle’s Witchblood, someone living in a creepy shed is stealing the eyes of teenagers — and the Hounds of Love want what they have!
There’s an interesting element to this series that has been touched on briefly in recent issues, but really feels notable here. Whenever one of the main characters interacts with someone outside of their more supernaturally-minded circles, there’s a detachment to their conversations. Even Atlacoya, who has devoted her life to defeating dark forces, has seemed fairly uninvested in the lives of “regular” folk. However, her conversation with a friend at the midway point of the issue grounds her in a way we haven’t seen yet. There’s a self-deprecating nature to the way she describes some of her deepest-held rituals, and a sense of familiarity that makes Atlacoya feel much more real than she has so far.
Meanwhile, Yonna’s energy is impossibly infectious. This is a character who doesn’t seem too upset about the fact that an old friend of hers has been attacking teenagers and stealing their eyes. The fact that she’s still so likable is a triumph on the part of the creative team. The highlight of the issue may be the sequence in which she improvises a potion with whatever she can find. The dialogue as she pulls together disparate elements and tries to justify them are hilarious, and the design for Bhu’s half-dog-half-bird design is horrific and endearing at the same time.
It’s easy to write many of these characters off as self-centered or unconcerned about the world around them, but I think that’s by design. In the case of Yonna, she’s just been around for so long that nothing surprises her anymore. The glimpses we get of her emotional side are certainly enough to give the reader pause. There’s so much more to this quirky witch, and it’s thrilling to know that we’ve barely scratched the surface.
And the lack of answers doesn’t feel so pressing when the book continues to be such a visual feast, as well! Yet again, Jim Campbell’s lettering of the sound effects throughout the issue are another major highlight. There are some hilariously literal onomatopoeia sprinkled here and there, which made me laugh every time they were employed. One of the most memorable occurrences is when Bhu smells around for their quarry, which is represented on the page with the words “INTENSE SNIFFING.”
Lisa Sterle and Gab Contreras also get a chance to deliver some of the series’ most psychedelic visuals yet, and that’s really saying something. The sequences in the shed are both spooky and disorienting, but also have a light silliness about them that cuts the horror aspects in a fun way. The command of tone throughout this issue is very impressive, and it goes a long way toward making the reader sympathize with someone that they’ve seen literally tear the eyes from innocent bystanders (in an eerie sequence that also makes liberal use of the color red).
This issue also continues to introduce more facets of the world around our characters. There are various organizations at work here, with covens and sacred orders alike battling it out in the shadows, but we still know so little about many of them and why they’re doing what they do. Witchblood continues to avoid giving the reader any easy answers, and is absolutely fascinating because of that fact. Each issue peels back a few more layers of this world of witches, vampires, and ordained hunters. While the longer game has yet to be fully revealed, that’s definitely part of the fun.
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