Hex-Wives #1 – Ben Blacker, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Artist; Marissa Louise, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Pretty Triggering For a Feminist Fable
Ray: There’s been a sudden boom in supernatural feminist fables in comics over the last few months, including Chelsea Cain’s Man-Eaters, Tee Franklin’s Jook Joint, and Ian Boothby’s Exorsisters.
Joining them from the newly revived Vertigo line is Hex-Wives, from the creative team of Ben Blacker and Mirka Andolfo. Spinning out of the Salem Witch Trials, it’s a clever genre-fusion of the Sabrina reboot and The Stepford Wives. It focuses on a powerful clan of witches – multiracial, many of whom are in relationships with each other – that has been hunted by vicious men for centuries. They’ve been killed many times over, but they always resurrect in new bodies and have gotten better at taking their tormentors with them. The opening pages of this issue may turn some people off, as they’re very graphically violent in places and involve some highly provocative imagery. They’re also not nearly as good as the series gets once it hits its big twist. That comes in the present day, when the society hunting them is greeted by their mysterious leader – with a much darker proposal for eliminating the witches for good.
The story then flashes forward three years, to a bucolic suburban neighborhood. The vibe is very much of the 1950s, as the hardworking husbands drive off to work and the wives are left to themselves to bake, clean, deal with the kids, and gossip. It just so happens that one by one, we find out that these housewives are the witches, each brainwashed and mind-wiped to believe they’re normal and love the man they’ve been bound to. These segments don’t have much in the way of action, but there’s a creeping unease to every single scene they’re in. By the end of the issue, we get the reveal of exactly what the main villain’s game is.
This is a fascinatingly creepy concept, but unlike Border Town, it feels a bit like a slim one. I’m not sure how much mileage this comic can get out of the story before things go to hell and the witches exact their bloody vengeance, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a very entertaining ride when it happens. The new Vertigo is dedicated to being socially conscious in a way the franchise never was before, and now they’re two for two in successes.
Corrina: This is a fascinating premise but my emotional reaction is covering my reviewer reaction to the work. First, seeing the killings of the women as a start to this is a bit rough. More than that, though, I’m not sure the work draws a distinction between the morality of the witches’ revenge and what their hunters do. If it’s a feminist fairy tale, it seems to be not quite on the side of the women, and that’s a disturbing thought, given what happens to them.
Which is why when the scene shifts to the bucolic town and the brainwashed woman, my stomach turned over a bit. Am I supposed to hope they escape, to wreak vengeance? But they’re been gleefully homicidal earlier in the book. Which makes me queasy, as if the work itself has more of the point of view of the men who persecute them than the women being persecuted.
This may change. I don’t believe it’s what the creators intended. I think they intended for me to be 100 percent on the side of the witches and find their battle a righteous (if slightly murderous) one. But that didn’t quite come across to me.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.