There are westerns where the protagonist never breaks a sweat, has to make a bad choice, or fails to save the day. Then, there are westerns where the protagonist is just as down on their luck as anyone else in the world. Witchblood is the second kind, albeit with a supernatural bent: The first issue follows the story of Yonna, a down-on-her-luck immortal witch. She’s quirky and weird, rides a motorcycle named Ramblin’ Rose, and has seemingly one-way conversations with a crow named Bhu. Yonna bounds through life with plenty of confidence and style, but underneath, she bears the kind of old wound that often haunts protagonists in revisionist westerns. Due to events in her past, Yonna makes a point of standing on the sidelines when it comes to humanity. In her own words, “I ain’t like the other witches… I don’t… interfere anymore.” Wisely, the issue does touch briefly on the consequences that accompany a witch’s refusal to intervene in the human world.
This isn’t to say that Witchblood #1 spends all its time on mopey emotion or sad character backstory. What’s front and center in Witchblood is style, as writer Matthew Erman’s omniscient narration and quirky dialogue adds a lot of texture to the world of the story. While Yonna may be ages-old, she talks like a mix between a Shakespearean character, a movie cowboy, and a millennial, throwing out funny one-liners and using air quotes.
The visuals and tempo of the book are bright and bombastic. Witches and “hex hunters” and vampires alike are all gorgeously designed and decked out like they’re cover models in a cool indie fashion magazine. Artist Lisa Sterle’s energetic panel layouts and expressive faces keep the story moving forward without slipping into the “pinup” feel that lots of style-forward comics fall for. Gab Contreras’ pop gradients of yellows, purples, and pinks keep the book feeling fresh and fun. And while Jim Campbell’s letters work well on the page, they don’t quite seem to hold the same level of energy that the rest of the book possesses.
Overall, this first issue strikes a decent balance, introducing the reader to the world of Witchblood without giving too much of the upcoming plot away. We meet two future antagonists—one “hex hunter” and one band of vampires—who will definitely reappear later on in the story to some dramatic effect. And we see a bit of what Yonna is capable of with her magic, learning why she doesn’t always use it when she can. The creators of the series clearly have a plan set for Yonna and for Witchblood, and the characters and the world are charming and intriguing enough to make the series worth reading and following.