Hex Wives #1 // Review
This Halloween, Vertigo launches a whole new horror fantasy series. A group of supernatural witches are bound to live the lives of suburban housewives by a sinister patriarchy as writer Ben Blacker dives into a dark fantasy hybrid of Bewitched and The Stepford Wives. Mirka Andolfo delivers the art, with colors by Marissa Louise. It’s fun pop-fiction that tilts various elements of character-driven storytelling with the supernatural and just a hint of X-Men-style persecution of the super-powered.
Witches in this world are beings with supernatural power who have lived for hundreds of years in the U.S. The witches are reincarnated every time they die. Each one has her own distinct power. Rebeckah has power over fire. Isadora, the leader of the coven, gains physical strength through the spilling of blood. She has an enduring romantic relationship with fellow witch Nadiya that goes back centuries. (Distinct personalities and powers of the others in the coven will doubtlessly be revealed in time.) In the present, a secret society of men known as “The Architects” have found a way to bind them. The witches are now a group of suburban housewives who are quite unaware of their powers and their past lives.
Though it’s about a coven of witches, Blacker’s story isn’t exactly looking to Wicca for source material. Blacker’s Hex Wives has more in common with X-Men than it does with something like Jim Balent’s long-running Wicca-inspired indie comic series, Tarot. Blacker frames the conflict between women and the patriarchy in a simplistic, larger-than-life good-versus-evil framework that will have to grow in complexity in the coming months.
The dramas and passions of the central three witches are given clever life by artist Mirka Andolfo. Though they don’t have any clearly distinguishing costuming, Rebeckah, Isadora and Nadiya are each given very distinctive visual personalities on the page. Andolfo handles the dynamic pacing of the story well. Action fluidly sweeps from emotion to physical aggression quite well under Andolfo’s pen. Marissa Louise’s colors establish a solidly engrossing mood. Scenes in history are alive with fire and blood, while scenes in the muted, suburban present are drably washed-out pastels. Near issue’s end, a luminous spark of fire breaks trough, suggesting that a suburban combustion is coming in the next issue.
It’s a fascinating first issue, and Blacker’s story has the potential to be something truly unique if it can only find the right focus. There’s a real potential appeal to empowerment in this series, with a group of women who have lost those magical abilities which define them, a corollary to how women have been marginalized for centuries. This book has the potential to gaze into the nature of that marginalization from an appealing horror-fantasy angle.