Hex Wives is a series that knows exactly what it wants to accomplish from page one. While the first issue is subdivided into three distinct sections, each of them plays an important role in constructing the metaphorical foundation for a story to come. It moves from a review of history to the hatching of a plot and, finally, into the status quo. These elements build naturally upon one another and create a solid engine of storytelling, one that is fascinated by power structures and the patriarchal systems across the centuries in the United States. Even as it sets up a long story of witches and witch hunters battling across all of history, it is simultaneously emphasizing a very real power struggle based in gender and sex.
While that description is accurate, it might also provide a perspective that is too highfalutin in style for what Hex Wives actually delivers. This is a comic book about systemic violence based upon gender, but it’s also a comic that appreciates the visceral impact of action sequences and a healthy dose of biting humor. It is a fun read that delivers its points through a plot and presentation that is consistently entertaining. The politics of Hex Wives are not what anyone would call subtle, but they are not didactic in presentation either. Dialogue is infused with small, familiar barbs. The way a woman delivers self-deprecating humor or the fashion in which a man makes a “funny” aside are all very familiar and they create a clear bridge between this fantastical world filled with magic and the one we occupy. Even as blood, fire, and brimstone are used to distract from reality, it’s impossible to ignore the similarities and how Hex Wives has structured a clear-sighted critique.
In spite of such clarity of vision, the script across the first half of Hex Wives #1 bungles its execution. As a series of historical scenes are related, they are delivered to readers in two forms, building an extraneous level of exposition on top of a perfectly functioning comic. Dialogue, action, and context provide everything that is needed while a monologue drones across the pages, sometimes even distracting from the clear reading order of panels. While this connects two key sections of the comic, it’s a choice that bogs down the pacing and enjoyment of this bloody montage. As a misstep, it is singular in nature and not suggestive of flaws with the series itself, but it still mars an otherwise excellent introduction to this high-concept series.
Beneath these excessive introductory explanations is a well-told story that impressively modulates its tone across eras and events. Within a single flashback, one only told in a few pages, Mirka Andolfo nimbly moves between moments of intimacy, sorrow, and rage. Characters are shown to be complex people with flaws in a very short space as they reveal both a great respect and disdain for life. So much comes across in facial expressions evoked with the fewest, most carefully selected lines. Marissa Louise’s colors bring these moments to life and deliver some very potent foreshadowing in the final few pages of the issues. From start to finish, Hex Wives is well told when it does not get in its own way.
Hex Wives #1 builds a strong foundation, one that is relevant both to this moment and all of American history. It presents complex topics in a form that is entertaining and exceedingly well told in the comics format. The bones of this new Vertigo launch provide yet another series that could aspire to the publisher’s pantheon. This staging makes the overwriting in the first half of the comic both more egregious, as it diminishes an otherwise great start, and easier to forgive, as it is not something likely to repeat. As a single issue, Hex Wives #1 may be fairly described as middling, but as the foundation for an ongoing series it is nothing short of thrilling.
Published by DC Comics
On October 31, 2018
Written by Ben Blacker3comments
Art by Mirka Andolfo
Colors by Marissa Louise