‘Trees were always the enemy.’
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll see this sequence and think: ‘Salem’s Lot’. Followed by, ‘don’t let him in!’ It’s a typically unnerving moment in Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special, a 64pp story returning to the world they created a few years back, a world in which monsters living underground are waiting to eat children.
A prequel to the original mini-series, this is set in 2012 and introduces us to Seb, an 11-year-old boy living in the suburbs with his all-American mom, Clara.
So far, so idyllic. But he doesn’t listen to his mother’s advice…
… Seb survives, mother and son move town, and six months later, Seb is dreaming of winning Scalextric-style toy car races with new pal Jackson, his first real friend. Sadly, Seb fears he’ll have to betray Jackson in the most horrifying way.
I read this the day after Halloween in a well-lit library on a cruise ship, but I can’t imagine being any more creeped out had I been devouring it in the dungeon of Castle Dracula in the dead of night on All Souls’ Day. It features the best writing I’ve come across from Snyder, with rock solid narrative prose and dead-on dialogue. Snyder’s pacing here is admirable, the shocks and surprises doled out masterfully, and his evocation of atmosphere enviable.
Jock’s illustrations complement Snyder’s words perfectly, his ability to jump from the mundane to the monstrous in a heartbeat a big part of the success of this done-in-one. Seb and mom Clara, Jackson and his parents are believably human, while the Wytches, with their trademark chittering, are truly frightful. Matt Hollingsworth’s hues reflect the everyday at the beginning of the story, but as things begin to get weird, a dreamy dappling is imposed on the art; it’s like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere and it suits Wytches down to the ever-threatening ground. Veteran craftsman Clem Robins’ lettering is unshowy in a way that’s perfect for this project, his work helping to (here’s that word again) ground the dark fantasy.
Don’t worry if you missed the first Wytches series, this is a brilliant jumping-on point, not just introducing a character who’s going to play a big part in the upcoming second volume, but recapping who and what the Wytches are.
Wytches: Bad Egg is bloody brilliant. If you like horror fiction at all, don’t miss this book.