Hex Wives by Ben Blacker

details
Title: Hex Wives.
Writer(s)Ben Blacker.
Artist(s)Mirka Andolfo.
Colourist(s): Marissa Louise.
Letterer(s): Josh Reed.
PublisherDC Vertigo.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: October 29th, 2019.
Pages: 160.
Genre(s): Comics, Fantasy, Horror.
ISBN13: 9781401294663.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.

thoughts

Mankind always had a thing against witches. Unexplainable life expectancy and occult magical powers don’t exactly make humans very comfortable after all. The good thing was that they couldn’t always tell them apart from themselves, making it that much harder to find and eliminate them. Or was that a bad thing? But what if this war had a much more basic conflict to it? One that was actually filtered down to genders? A war pinned in a rage between women and men? Let’s just say that it definitely wouldn’t be a very pretty world. As part of the now deceased and previously reborn imprint of DC Vertigo comes a story, collecting all six issues of the mini-series, by writer Ben Blacker, artist Mirka Andolfo, and colourist Merissa Louise, centered around a century-old war between witches and men.

What is Hex Wives about? For countless years, an all-male conspiracy known as the Architects have been battling a coven of reincarnating witches without success. When the leader of the Architects was defeated in 2005, it seemed like the witches were set for a peaceful life without any form of hindrance. Nearly 13 years later, they are now resurrected in the life of stay-at-home wives in a corner of suburbia where no one could reach them. With no prior knowledge of their lives as witches, they live happily at the mercy of their husbands who seem to be hiding a terrifying secret. Slowly, they uncover pieces of the truth, but will they recall the memories of their former selves before it’s too late?

“We’re a coven.
We look out for each other.
Now let’s get dressed to raise some hell.”

— Ben Blacker

This was incredibly painful to read through. Embedded in an intriguing premise, the blatant satire of the rampant sexism of the 1950s is revisited without any added reflection on the matter. The women in this story simply fall prey to this issue as the reader endures the stereotypes throughout each issue, forced into a state of learned helplessness, while these characters continue obliviously with the unjustified treatment. Add in the fact that their characterization is mediocre with some of the most inaccurate writing style conveying speech anachronisms (e.g. ladies in 50s talking like teenagers in the 21st century), there’s rarely any moment through this poorly-developed concept of a science experimentation on witches that makes much sense. In fact, the absence of proper world-building leaves so much unanswered that by the time you reach the anticlimactic ending filled with inconsistencies, you’re just hoping that it won’t give you anything more to miserably chew on, hoping for some kind of desperate dose of instant gratification that will superficially hide all of this story’s flaws.

The artwork is sharp, clear, and vibrant. It doesn’t dare do anything exploratory and sticks to telling the aforementioned story. Occasionally, a nine-panel page of the protagonist getting herself ready in front of the mirror is used in almost every issue, probably trying to illustrate something metaphorical on her psychological entrapment, but it remains nothing impressive. The horror elements are also sparingly present throughout this story, occasionally reminding us that witches aren’t sweet, kind, and nice ladies, especially with their blood magic. The colouring also shifts to focusing on a restrained grim colour palette, like some kind of discotheque, to accentuate the horror moments, but again, it’s never enough to justify this mediocre story.

Hex Wives is a half-baked witchy tale of emancipation brimming with condescending patriarchy and poorly-executed feminist enlightenment.


EXHIBITA
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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