Webcomic Weekly – doing just what it says, putting a webcomic I love in front of you every week. This week, it’s Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries, a tail of magic and hair…
Witchy is a comic about witches, taking place in a world (and what a beautifully constructed world it is) where the length of your hair is a measure of magical powers. It might seem a strange way to do magic, but in the confident hands of Ries, it’s a fully-formed, absolutely wonderfully constructed world where the idea of hair linking to magic really does work. It’s genuinely a magical and wonderful tale.
We’re in the witch kingdom of Hyalin, with our young hero, Nyneve, who’s father was one of those whose hair was considered too long, too dangerous, by Viceroy Jung, a ruler whose public face of kindness masks something far nastier, far darker. And Nyneve’s father paid the price with his life for the fear of what power he might have.
Nyvene starts out in Witchy as a young girl just on the verge of being conscripted into the kingdom’s Witch Guard, protectors and warriors, under the command of the Viceroy Jung. But given her family history, it’s no wonder that she’s reluctant and conflicted on being forced to join the Witch Guard.
She joins the Guard, but despite a brilliant magical tactical brain always comes bottom of the class. But how much of that is her decision – well, you’ll see for yourselves. But one thing is certain, Nyneve could have incredible power but she keeps that a secret…
The first part of the story concerns Nyneve and her incredibly poor fit in the Witch Guard – this anti-establishment kid, still grieving, still angry for what the rulers did to her dad, she’s in the worst place she can possibly be. And it hurts her just being in the Witch Guard.
In fact, it hurts her so much that she does the one thing that a witch with her hair is never meant to do, something so shocking that it leads to her running from Jung and the Witch Guard, fearful for her life…
All of which leads us to mid-way through capter three and onwards, with a desperate and powerless Nyneve running from Jung, runs from her problems, runs from her past, and potentially tries to escape a future foretold by her one constant companion, the strange, talkative raven called Ba-nana.
And all the while, Jung is there in the background, aware of what’s going on.
As Nyneve runs, she discovers a resistance of sorts and begins to question all of the fundamentals of magic that she’s been brought up to believe are fixed, immutable things. But her life lies elsewhere, she’s far too full of questions about herself and her world to stay. And so, with chapter 5, we get Nyneve running again, wanted by the Witch Guard, so few friends to trust, and those around her the most may be the least trustworthy of all.
Ries’ work here is something very special. They’ve created a fully-formed magical world with a difference, but more than that, she’s populated it with some very strong characters, all of which makes the Witchy experience a great one. Ries’ artwork has a wonderfully rich texture to it, something that works just as well doing quiet, introspective moments as it does kinetic, fast-paced moments. And over the course of the series, the art has changed, evolved, matured. Deep into chapter six, we see so much tonal use of colour and a somewhat muted palette, but it all just adds to the sense of Nyneve being somewhere else.
Witchy is currently somewhere in chapter 6 and continues to amass adulation and acclaim, most recently being nominated for a 2020 Ignatz Award. It really is a long-running webcomic that you should be adding to your weekly reading list.
Hopefully, Ries will keep going with Witchy, will see it through to wherever the natural end of the series may be. One thing’s for certain, I’ll be here with you and reading every page I can.
Witchy Volume 1 was published by Lion Forge and contains chapters 1-4 of the webcomic.