Hex Wives #3 // Review
A group of suburban housewives don’t know the full reality of their own power. Suspicions begins to grow amongst those watching over them in the third installment of DC Vertigo’s Hex Wives. The moody torpor of Ben Blacker’s tale is given murky life by artist Mirka Andolfo with color by Marissa Louise. It’s a slow-moving drama that cleverly plays with suburban amnesia and brief flashes of sinister magic.
Suburban housewife Isadora has stumbled into a mysterious room in her house. There’s a naked old woman shackled to a chair who claims to be her mother. She recognizes her for what she is: a witch who has forgotten her true identity. She’s shocked by the interaction until her husband drops by to confront her. The next page she’s fresh out of the shower completely oblivious to what happened in the room. Life in suburbia continues, watched over as it is by men in subterranean surveillance compound.
Blacker’s story continues to develop in the third chapter. The author shows a tremendous amount of patience in letting the slow metabolism of suburbia filter through the panels as horror bleeds-in around shadowy edges. Blacker’s story is as much about the story as it is about how it’s being told. Dialogue reveals bits of the emerging mystery from behind and between relaxed social moments between various characters. The fantastic and horrific increases tensions in places. A man ignites in flames. There’s an incident with a cat and a pair of garden shears. Horror comes. There is drama. Then it all washes away into another casual moment in placid American suburbia.
This time around Mirka Andolfo’s rendering of Blacker’s story seems to lean a bit too heavily on the listlessness of the mood. The really intense moments don’t have quite the impact that they could. There’s an eerie stillness in the shock of a man becoming engulfed in flames. There IS wide-eyed panic in that moment, but the moodiness of the moment makes it feel very, very still. Andolfo seems to be at his best in this issue when delivering Isadora’s life in unspoken moments. For a third issue in a row, we get another 9-panel page detailing Izzy’s post-shower routine. By now the routine is very well-defined. She’s always got the towel off of her head by panel six. She’s always using the hair dryer in panel seven. There’s a hypnotic pulse about it that amplifies the subtlety of the drama. It’s almost heartbreaking to see Isadora’s lack of self-knowledge. Andolfo carefully documents the tragedy of that lack of awareness one panel at a time. Perhaps there’s some suspicion in her face. Perhaps she knows more than she’s letting anyone know. Time will tell. Once again, Marissa Louise paints the color in pleasantly dreary pastels. Everything feels faded, which is a beautiful fit for the overall mood, but lacks impact in the more dramatic moments of the story.
As it is a story which plays with mystery, it’s difficult to tell exactly where the story is heading. There is some foreshadowing that the witches will regain their full power, but it will be a long journey for them. The challenge for Blacker and company is going to lie in keeping the story interesting and compelling it such a slow pace that also plays on the frustrations of readers. Isadora can’t keep forgetting things. There MUST be some acknowledgement that things are not as they appear in the pleasantly drab suburban torpor. If there isn’t some quickening of the story’s pulse soon, the series could start to flatline.