Just in time for Halloween, Dark Horse Comics is publishing a new series by Kate Leth and Megan Levens that stars a trio of witches. But unlike a certain Shakespearean Scottish play, Spell on Wheels #1 doesn’t star terrifying prophets of doom, but three thoroughly modern witches who find their way of life and the survival of humanity under attack by a sinister force and a spurned man seeking revenge. The result is a debut issue that features female protagonists that are relatable, multidimensional and warm, even while it credibly sets up an intriguing mystery and threat at its centre.
The issue opens with a break-in at the home shared by Jolene, Claire, and Andy. The women are witches, each with different specialities, and they sense their space has been invaded by what appears to be an old boyfriend, who is searching for something specific. He has a very powerful and sinister unknown backer, who is looking for a specific talisman of incredible power. And so the women go on the road to find out who is after them, what they want, and to stop them.
There’s a great energy to Spell on Wheels #1 that is infectious and that reminds the reader of the best aspects of past feminist fantasy icons like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Charmed.” To some extent, the issue wears those influences on its sleeve. But that’s not a bad thing, as the issue and the characters have a lot of heart and a lot of charm. The plot of the issue doesn’t necessarily break the mould, but the directness of the narrative gives plenty of room for the reader to get to know the characters.
If there’s flaw to the issue it’s that the humor and the snark occasionally feels a little arch at times. As the series progresses, and the narrative heads deeper into the plot, I hope that we’ll see the thrust and stakes of the narrative overwhelm the banter a little. Whenever the issue focuses on the predicament the women are in, and the dialogue reflects that, it makes the story feel more organic and real-world than when the dialogue concerns itself with snappy patter.
On the art side, Megan Levens delivers some great stuff. The tone is bright and realistic, but Levens’ style is expressive and reminiscent of a classical comic strip without being cartoonish. The characters are richly individual and full of emotion, resulting in a world that feels unique. The issue doesn’t have a tone of atmosphere in terms of a typical supernatural story, but I think that’s deliberate on the part of the creative team. Leth and Levens want these characters and this world to feel familiar and and engaging. And they do.
In the final analysis, Spell on Wheels #1 is a solid beginning with engaging characters and a warm tone. its perhaps a little long on banter, but the wit on display is likable enough. With a great, fun, art style on display, there’s more than enough to suggest Dark Horse has a charming and unconventional series to offer people looking for a spooky road trip this Halloween. 7.5/10.
Spell on Wheels #1 will be released on October 19, 2016.