1. Sandman: A Game of You
Created by: Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Dick Giordano, and Others
There’s a lot of love for Sandman so it’s very hard to call any of it underrated, but if there is one volume of the series deserving of this descriptor it’s “A Game of You.” The story takes place in the real life and dreamscape of Barbie, as a terrible storm rages outside and a fantasy epic occurs within. The combination of genres and ideas about gender, identity, and empowerment are truly sweeping and make for one of the absolute best Sandman stories.
Near the center of this adventure is Thessaly, a centuries old witch, and neighbor of Barbie’s. Gaiman and his collaborators depict her as a witch who engages with ritual and sacrifice in the most visceral way possible. Her contributions to the adventure are soaked in both classic mythology and buckets of blood, making for a both cringe-inducing and fascinating character. After “A Game of You”, Thessaly would spin-off into her own Vertigo mini-series as well, giving readers another dose of this demure and deadly witch.
2. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Created by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack
Archie Comics has been going through a major revival with big re-launches of both Archie and Jughead this year. Their attention worthy rise began in the realm of horror however. Afterlife with Archie added zombies to Riverdale via a poorly-chosen spell from Sabrina Spellman. The success of that series led to another one written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and lushly illustrated by Robert Hack: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Both creators have absolutely embraced the horror elements of the series along with some classic characters. Sabrina may still be lovable, but her aunts are ferocious monsters consuming human flesh and happily murdering those that upset them. It is a coming of age story with the sweet protagonist being raised by a crew that would give the Manson family shivers. Hack’s depiction of these terrors is chilling, blending skulls and creepy-crawly creatures into what feels like it should be a beautiful painting of a New England town. This reinvention of a classic character is definitely worth checking out.
Created by: Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth
Wytches was released last year to widespread acclaim for both Scott Snyder’s personal familial narrative, Jock’s terrifying depictions of these creatures, and Matt Hollingsworth’s inventive use of color. It’s a chilling horror tale that focuses on concepts of family, history, and sacrifice. The first volume is complete now and has spent a fair amount of time on the New York Times Best Sellers list, cementing the series and these creator’s reputations.
The witches of the comic are very different from what most readers will expect though. They are a bestial race hidden deep in the earth that engage with humanity, but are not part of it. Jock’s exaggerated forms and sharp angular depictions show them to truly be something other (and capable of inducing some pants wetting). Wytches is a great combination of monster and New England haunted house narratives with a shocking antagonist right at its center.
4. Harrow County
Created by: Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook just began the second arc of Harrow County at Dark Horse after the success of the first five-issues. It’s no surprise that they succeeded though, because this is a comic that showcases what both creators do best. Bunn is telling a ghost story like a man hunkered beside a campfire in the South. His narrative radiates warmth, but is laced with tension. Crook’s artwork suits that telling perfectly with rich watercolors that bring the fall colors of this small town to life and make the monsters within it seem truly menacing.
The witch at the center of this tale is a hero though. Emmy is a young woman raised on a farm who comes into her powers through a curse on the land. It makes her feared by her fellow townsfolk even though she only aspires to do good. The powers of a witch in this series are shown to be part of a balance, creating both good and bad, and relying on the wisdom and desires of their user. Harrow County is a homespun take on the concept of witches and one well worth checking out.
5. Avengers (vol. 3) #1-3
Created by: Kurt Busiek, George Perez, Al Vey, and Tom Smith
This may seem like an off-the-wall pick, but it both features a witch and is a really fantastic comic. The start of the third volume of Avengers was the beginning of Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s legendary run. To this day no other run on the team has eclipsed the greatness of this iconic series that almost rivals even Grant Morrison’s JLA in the pantheon of superhero team books. It’s just that good and definitely well worth a read.
The team of Avengers at the center of this story wasn’t brought together by chance, but by the great witch of Arthurian legend: Morgan le Fay. Her machinations drew Earth’s mightiest heroes together and transported them into medieval versions of themselves. It led to some truly wild character designs by Perez and a very fun tale filled with Marvel heroes. For all of her flaws, we can be grateful to Le Fay for kicking off a great Avengers series with a bang.