Review – Spell on Wheels #1 (Dark Horse)

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Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Kate Leth
Artwork: Megan Levens, Marissa Louise
Release Date: 19th October 2016

Jolene, Claire and Andy are your typical group of friends.  They work together, live together, and – in spite of each being very different in terms of their outlook and temperament – they just flat-out ‘click’ when they’re together.  Oh, and they’re witches.  Witches who have just had some of their most valuable and dangerous artifacts stolen from them by a mysterious, magically protected burglar.

It’s truly impressive just how much writer Kate Leth manages to pack into these pages. We have a story about friendship, a supernatural mystery, a relationship drama, hell, even a road movie. Spell on Wheels has it all, and Leth’s typically realistic dialogue and wonderfully relatable characters keep the pages turning from start to finish. Also, while Leth is clearly skilled at creating intriguing protagonists, it’s the way these characters interact with one another that really makes the story sing.  Within the course of just a few pages, we can already feel the close bond between these three friends, something  that usually takes a lot of writers a heck of a lot longer to achieve.

In terms of the overall story, Leth is keeping her cards pressed closely to her chest for the time being, but she dangles enough threads of mystery here to keep the reader hooked.  It’s a relatively slow-paced start, with the focus falling squarely on characterisation rather than bombarding us with narrative twists and turns right out of the gate – a wise choice, in my humble opinion.

Visually, Megan Levens does a great job of giving the book a lively, energetic aesthetic.  Cartoony without being too cartoony, y’know?  The character designs for the three witches are pleasingly distinctive, and Levens conveys their moods and emotions brilliantly, from mischief to fear to anger to sheer bloody-minded determination. Marissa Louise brings everything together with her bright, vibrant colours, giving the book an eye-catching look which stops things from ever becoming dour or dull.  It’s always a pleasure to see a creative team working together so seamlessly, and while there isn’t really anything too ambitious in this first issue, it definitely bodes well for the remainder of the series, assuming things take the expected turn for the supernatural.

So, does Spell on Wheels manage to pass my meticulously researched (and not at all just thrown together) “first issue test”?  Well let’s see, shall we?  Interesting characters that don’t feel like one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs? Check.  An intriguing story with enough meat on its bones to justify the rest of the series?  Check.  And, most importantly, does it make me want to pick up the second issue?  Hell to the yes!  Leth, Levens and Louise have put together a charming, funny and intriguing story with some fantastically realised main characters, and I for one can’t wait to see where the rest of this series takes us.

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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