Hex Wives #4 // Review
A group of suburban housewives begin to notice strange events that suggest a power in blood that may put them in touch with deeper powers in the latest installment of writer Ben Blacker’s Hex Wives. Art is handled by Mirka Andolfo with colors by Marissa Louise. Blacker progresses the group of amnesiac witches towards the full realization of their powers in a taut drama with flashes of magic, fun, and little bit of intrigue.
Becky has just accidentally killed a cat. The bloodshed has caused her to briefly fly. It’s a traumatic experience for her. Naturally she's going to confide in her neighbors about the strange paranormal failure of gravity. None of her friends are totally willing to believe her, but they’re all beginning to suspect something as their husbands and the power structure they work for desperately try to keep everything nice and normal in the quaint, little suburban prison that they’re trying to maintain control over. Are the women beginning to suspect their true power? And why are all the cats in the neighborhood clustering around the ground-based surveillance cameras?
This type of mystery story is really difficult to pace in a long-running serial. If the women were to find out their true nature right away, the significance of their amnesia would be lost. Blacker maintains the tension by allowing the women to slowly realize that something is wrong without totally embracing the paranormal. Interpersonal politics between the women surface just enough to lend credibility to their lack of unity without overpowering the central story of discovery. Blacker has found a good pacing that could serve the title well for many issues to come. It would be nice to see the witches’ journey into self-awareness mirror a social liberation from patriarchy a bit more. The political end of what Blacker is exploring here isn’t quite meeting its potential just yet. The political motif in the background DOES serve to keep the focus on the horror fantasy elements that are at the center of the drama, though. It’s a drama that’s captured quite well by Andolfo.
Andolfo finds subtly clever ways to bring the social drama to life on the page. Andolfo has found a really unique visual language for the series. Establishing shots for each scene tend to be strange aerial angles looking down on the action. (The opening panel is a VERY dramatic perspective on Becky’s accidental flight.) Drama is drawn across the faces of the characters with a smart line economy. Moods are delivered as much in body language as they are in facial features. The central witch Izzy is an exception to this with a particularly expressive face that seems to have a distinctly different emotion in every single panel. Marissa Lousie’s colors continue to be drab naturalistic suburban pastels contrasted against the drab pale greens of the command center from which they are secretly being observed. Occasionally there’s a vibrant splash of magical color suggesting something more fantastic lurking around the edges.
With Izzy serving as the center of a really interesting ensemble of ersatz witches in the middle of a very oppressive suburban bubble, Hex Wives continues to slink through the intrigue of a very interesting story. There might be some difficulty maintaining the right mix of amnesia and subjugated power in future issues, but at the moment Blacker, Andolfo and Louise have a really unique story running in the fourth issue of an engrossing series.