[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Ben Blacker
Art: Mirka Andolfo
Colors: Marissa Louise
Letters: Josh Reed
Last month’s Hex Wives #1 was a history spanning tale that set up the series, issue #2 is a much more interesting debut of another kind. And while issue #2 relies on much of the historical set up from last month, it is a much more intimate and character focused story.
The issue opens with Isadora and her husband, Aaron on what seems to be an average day in their lives. They are playing in the pool in the backyard, go in for lunch, which suddenly turns into a weird game that makes it appear that Aaron is messing with her on purpose. He claims he’s fine with whatever, “you are so wonderful, Isa.” She makes chicken salad sandwiches and brings them out to him. He suddenly decides he has things to work on…and and doesn’t eat. She eventually checks on him in his study and he manages to turn in into a moment for sex. They don’t actually finish, and it is wonderfully bizarre as Aaron seems to be teasing her and purposely messing with her, yet the whole time it is so expertly staged by Mirka Andolfo that it is clear she is COMPLETELY uninterested.
There are a couple moments when Isadora mentions to Aaron she hears some scratching in the walls and attributes it to a mouse family. He’s not so sure…but, eventually comes around to believing her.
The next day is a series of vignettes covering the Isadora’s friends as she visits with Nadiya as Nadiya bakes and bakes and bakes cake after cake after cake. The vignette’s show the odd relationships between Isadora’s friends and their husbands. They all sort of mirror her relationship with her own husband, Aaron. The husbands seem to go out of their way to set their wives on a pedestal, overlooking any imperfections their wives may have.
The next night, Isadora hears the scratching and it wakes her up. She goes alone to investigate. The sound leads her to a bauble on a bookshelf downstairs which looks remarkably like Jeannie’s bottle from the television show, I Dream of Jeannie. Once removed, it reveals a secret passageway and when Isadora opens it, she finds…!
Making this issue more personal and intimate, moves this series from something of a curiosity to must to come back to. This allows for the mystery to build, as Isadora and her friends are completely in the dark about their husbands, believing they are the ones with the secret. Plus, the mysterious fires that burn around their town continue to be a secondary mystery. It’s still not clear what it is or if it benefits the wives or the husbands.
Aaron’s treatment of Isadora creates some real sympathy for her. Despite knowing that she’s a witch, seeing her purposely emotionally assaulted engenders this sympathy for her character as well as her friends who are receiving similar treatment.
Nadiya’s baking carries a bit of a humorous element, which neatly offsets the feel of the rest of the issue while at the same time contributing to it, thus revealing the complexity of the storytelling.
While it may seem more appropriate to reference Bewitched, it’s certainly easier to invoke I Dream of Jeannie with the bottle to drawn comparison to these classic sitcoms which have similar domestic themes as Hex Wives.
Both husbands and wives appear to be keeping secrets from each other and it creates a complex web of deception with multiple twists, turns and surprises. It’s subtle enough that it’s not clear how much the wives actually know and if their integrity has already been compromised.
About the only negative in this issue is the difficulty in keeping Isadora’s friends identifiable. While introduced to all of them last issue, it was not so easy to recall them specifically this issue, except Mabel and her secretive smoking.
If you weren’t thrilled with last month’s debut, come back for Hex Wives #2, it seems to quickly find its stride as well a creating some sympathy for Isadora and her friends. This is a really positive turn and signals a lot of potential. The last page reveal and the focus on character throughout indicate this series could be good for a long time. These were elements that made Fables, another Vertigo series, one of the best series of all time.