Exactly What The Veterinarian Ordered – An Advanced Review Of Hex Vet: Witches In Training
by Rachel Bellwoar
Until this week I didn’t realize how much I’d been craving a hospital comic, but Sam Davies’ Hex Vet made me see the light. It’s not a genre you come across in comics too often (and if you know of any, please comment on social media) but, with Hex Vet, you’re not just getting the best in medical drama, but a graphic novel geared towards all-age groups. That means Willows Whisper Veterinary Practice serves magical creatures, and while you won’t catch any residents canoodling in the halls (it’s a four-person staff so this was unlikely anyhow), Willows Whisper is a teaching vets office and, like County General on ER, the best part of the book is seeing young witch trainees, Annette and Clarion, learning on the job.
Set over the course of one day, Willows Whisper is, as mentioned, a little short-staffed, so when a manticore goes into labor early, Dr. Talon has to cancel her appointments to help with the birth (she’s delivering triplets). While Talon and Nurse Chantsworth are away, Annette and Clarion are left in charge of their patients. Mostly they’re meant to make sure their feeding schedules are maintained, but when a rabbit with purple eyes gets loose, Annette and Clarion experience a shift they’ll never forget. There’s a bugbear in the store room and family reputations to live down, and nothing is ever predictable in the world of veterinary medicine.
Davies’ characters have very clear personalities and you get to know who they are fairly quickly. Clarion is chatty, honest, and empathetic towards everyone she meets. Dr. Talon loves her work and is a natural teacher. Nurse Chantsworth is Talon’s foil but also her second in command, and she wouldn’t hold that position if she wasn’t the right witch for the job. That leaves Annette and, at first, I thought she might suffer from social anxiety but there’s a specific reason why she’s avoiding people.
Throughout Hex Vet Davies’ art is very playful. At one-point Annette’s movements mirror a video game character’s and the cloaks the trainees wear give them penguin silhouettes. The way Davies parcels out the bugbear, so you see more of him every time he appears, really keeps you guessing as to what his final appearance will be, and Mike Fiorentino’s letters makes sure the text is large enough for younger readers. While I was wrong about the keys in the book looking like stethoscopes (an idea I’m still hung up on even if the truth is a continuation of Hex Vet‘s eye motif), they’re nonetheless different from your garden variety door keys and a welcome diversion.
Clarion and Annette need to come together as a team, but their progress never feels rushed and is believable for the timeframe of the story. As much as the pacing of Hex Vet goes well with the size of a graphic novel, one of the drawbacks to the format is the turnaround for sequels. Not that a sequel has been confirmed (I’m choosing to be optimistic) but there are some very promising follow-up opportunities with the bunny. Is it likely that a sequel would return to his case? A monthly comic would be more accommodating to picking things up the next day but, with the time it takes to complete a graphic novel, Davies will probably want to move on, but time will tell what Hex Vet‘s future becomes. Whatever happens next, though, Hex Vet‘s current diagnosis is in: healthy and addictive.
Hex Vet goes on sale December 12th from Boom! Studios.