Lisa Sterle and Matthew Erman’s Witchblood #1 screams to be picked up. Not just because it’s good — though it is — but because it oozes style. From the bright and evocative cover to its brilliantly candy-coated colors by Gab Contreras, Witchblood catches the eye and doesn’t let it go thanks to a fun story, gorgeous character designs, and a dedication to being bombastic at every single turn.
Jim Campbell (Letters), Gab Contreras (Colors), Matthew Erman (Writer), Lisa Sterle (Artist)
March 31, 2021
The story follows Yonna, an immortal witch with a sick motorcycle named Ramblin’ Rose and a crow familiar named Bhu. It’s not hard to fall immediately in love with Yonna — Lisa Sterle’s character design is immediately attention-grabbing, accentuated by Contreras’ bold colors, and her dialog is fun and snappy.
There are little hints of what’s to come, such as mentions of an Esme whom Yonna has fallen out with and a “3rd canto,” a word usually meaning a section of a long poem. With Yonna’s introduction coming with a “Once upon a time…there rode an immortal witch,” alongside the repeated use of “canto” to describe a period of time, Witchblood immediately feels like a slice of a larger ongoing mythic story that began before the first page and will continue long after.
After sharing dinner with Bhu over a glowing magical circle, Yonna is run off the road by someone shouting Spanish obscenities. We follow the driver of that car — a sharply dressed woman with facial scars who looks like she could kick the collective ass of everyone on earth — into the small town of Carlos, Texas, where the bulk of the issue takes place.
What follows is clearly set up for the issues to follow; the issue introduces not only Yonna and the mysterious, foul-mouthed driver, but also a biker gang of extremely fashionable vampires in search of a magical something or other, and also the delicious flavor of witch blood — Yonna’s witch blood. The glimpse we get of the story, brief as it is, is a delicious taste of what’s to come.
“Extremely fashionable” could very well describe all of the issue’s characters — reading Witchblood feels a lot like watching a Janelle Monae music video in its blending of retro and futuristic styles rendered in a bright neon palette. It feels extremely cool. I want to shop where these characters shop, even the evil ones. I need a fringe cowboy jacket, I need a spiky pauldron, I need a flat black hat with a large brim. Lisa Sterle is incredibly talented at conveying character through dress, something I also loved about Long Lost, and Contreras’ colors only accentuate that skill.
Each character is immediately visually distinct, but their speech patterns also do wonders in establishing character. Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, Yonna, the foul-mouthed woman, and the pack of vampires all have distinct ways of speaking that lend them even more character. There’s a musicality to each bit of dialog that makes the comic a lot of fun to read. You never feel like the story is being told to you; instead, it comes through in visuals and dialog, with little narration boxes that set an almost fairytale-like tone for this pop-punk narrative of witches, vampires, and motorcycles.
It’s a thrilling beginning from a team whose work I’ve already enjoyed quite a bit. I can wait to see where this high-velocity story of magic and mayhem is going next.