Publisher: DC Vertigo
Writer: Ben Blacker
Artwork: Mirka Andolfo
Colours: Marissa Louise
Lettering: Josh Reed
Release Date: 27th February 2019
As we reach the penultimate issue of the first arc of Vertigo’s HEX WIVES, things are getting rather tense for our coven of gaslighted (or maybe not so much anymore) witches.
For those new to this series, here’s the gist; for centuries, a coven of immortal, regenerating and immensely likeable witches have been sticking it to the man and basically living their best lives. Every effort to stop them throughout the years has met with abject failure, which has led to this latest gambit. Erase their memories and have them live in oblivious subjugation as docile housewives while the “men” try to plot a way to do away with them once and for all.
It’s a fantastic concept which has been brilliantly realised by Ben Blacker, Mirka Andolfo and Marissa Louise to this point, painting a fascinating picture of sterile 1950s domestic bliss with an undercurrent of supernatural chauvinism. On the surface it’s a gripping drama about witches, but there are also some clear parallels to some worrying real-life issues, including the way men have tried to control women throughout history. And, after three straight issues of screaming “he’s not who you think he is, snap the hell out of it!” at the comics I’ve been holding, it seems like we’ve finally reached the point where the whole house of cards is about to come crashing down.
Blacker does a great job with the dialogue once again, with each witch gradually realising their situation and the powers that their own blood imbues them with. The camaraderie and bond between the women makes them difficult not to root for, and the patronising, dismissive men working to destroy them make for effective foils – particularly in this latest issue, with the “boss” dropping by for dinner.
Likewise, Andolfo’s artwork continues to fit perfectly with the story, with an expressive and diverse cast of characters and a suitably unnerving facsimile of ‘50s suburban life. Louise also plays an equally vital role here in underscoring the key beats of the story, particularly in scenes where the witches’ powers come to the fore and the tense, goosebump-raising final pages.
When I picked up the first of this issue last year, I’ll admit I was slightly concerned about how such a relatively simple structure could hold a reader’s interest for a six-issue arc. Oh how wrong I was. With the gradual reveals and realisations, not to mention several deliciously frustrating stops and starts along the way, the series has gradually built up the tension and our investment in its characters over the last five issues to the point where the wait for the next month’s reckoning is looking to be nothing less than unbearable.
A spellbinding feminist drama that delivers an utter masterclass in tension, drama and satire, HEX WIVES is a series that comes highly recommended. If you somehow managed to miss out on it to this point, you really owe it to yourself to pick up the trade as soon as it becomes available. You can thank me later.