Monday, January 7, 2019

Hex Wives #1 Review

“Bewildered and Bothered”

Written By: Ben Blacker
Drawn By: Mirka Andolfo
Colors By: Marissa Louise
Letters By: Todd Klein
Cover Price $3.99
Release Date: October 31, 2018
Review by: Mike Knox

Hex Wives is a clever story using Witches vs Architects war as a fantastic device to showcase the real-life inequalities of men and women. The book finds a nice balance between action, story and just a hint of comedy. This ends up reading more like an episode of Supernatural or Charmed (Original) style series, than the darker tones we’re used to in Vertigo titles.
While I was probably part of the target demographic when this book was conceived, I still think most people looking for a fun witch or magic story will see enough here to find this issue worthwhile.

Blacker’s story has us travel through a montage of various battles from the late 1690s to 2005. This delivers an action-packed introduction to our primary characters and their motivations in the war, as we jump from The Salem Witch Trials to Colonial America, followed by the Wild West, then ending in the modern era. These scenes felt fun and over the top as Isadora, our main witch to follow, ruthlessly destroys generations or Architect leaders, while the reader is learning the impact this had on the Architects through the narration. All of this culminates with a fun twist that sets us up for the main story moving forward.

The issue opens up with Nadiya drowning at the hands of the Architects in the old days of Salem, Mass. That witch drowning party is quickly broken up as Isodora and Rebeckah come to her aid. Rebekah is shot during the rescue mission and this sends Isadora into the first of many raging bloodlusts, to which she kills every Architect present that day. This is the basis for the pattern moving forward.

You see the witches never really die. They just get reincarnated every time they die. And when their powers awaken in their newly minted body for that generation, they get all previous knowledge and memories from past lives. This proves to be a particular thorn in the side of the Architects as no matter what they do, eventually, these pesky witches always come back. That was the cycle of blood that leads us into the present.

Later in the modern era, we find the new leader of the Architects, Aaron, having just come back from a long sabbatical his father’s death. He believes he’s come up with a full proof plan to end the war once and for all. Jump to three years in the future. We find our group of witches living very domestic lives, as housewives, in a very suburban cul-de-sac. No one’s casting magic and all they can do is talk about how hard their husbands work and how much they respect and dote them. Later its revealed that Aaron his Isadora’s husband and he’s somehow used their magic against them to create this illusory prison.

The social commentary here is great. It paints a beautiful picture of the inequality women have suffered throughout American history. Using the Witch vs Architect war as our medium for the men vs women debate doesn’t feel too forced either. And with the supposed solution to keep these women alive in this perfect 40s/50s slice-of-America scenario, it helps enforce the notion that the good old days weren’t great for everyone.

I know not everyone will enjoy the art direction considering the normal Vertigo styles most are used to seeing. And given the amount of gore and nudity in this issue would usually lend itself to a more mature feeling pencil style, I prefer this direction as I like the fantasy feel for this book, more than a straight-up horror show. The tone of the art felt simple and colorful, with just enough red and shadows when the chopping bits start happening. But, even with the amount of gore in this issue, it doesn’t feel dirty or gross it feels more similar to what you may find in Ash vs Evil Dead, or Stan against Evil, rather than something more sinister.

While I do like this book, it’s not without fault. A few scenes had dialogue that I thought could have been worked out better. Mostly, the Salem scene and the Cul-de-sac scene. It feels like some of the dialogue was written just to fill boxes and not really push anything forward. I’m concerned about pacing moving forward. There could have been more time spent building up the side players to make us care more about everyone. Some of the coloring choices weren’t my personal favorite, either. Too many times were pinks and purples used in favor or other colors to the point it took me out of the story. Purple horse in the 1777 scene was a big one.

Bits and Pieces:

A new story by Ben Blacker, that is equal parts fantasy action and social commentary, delivers pretty strongly in issue 1. The twist, with the Stepford Wives’s like prison reveal, at the end of the book keeps this feeling original enough, that continued reading feels warranted.


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