Every character in Witchblood is the coolest person I’ve ever seen.
Jim Campbell (Letters), Gab Contreras (Colors), Matthew Erman (Writer), Lisa Sterle (Artist)
May 26, 2021
By issue #3, it’s started to feel like I’m harping on this, but I mean it—this comic is stylish as hell. Lisa Sterle’s character designs, complemented by Gab Contreras’ colors, feel like constant wardrobe inspiration; I’m not convinced that owning even a single one of these outfits wouldn’t solve all my self-confidence problems forever.
Okay, you say, no doubt tired of hearing about the outfits, but is the story any good? And to that, I have to say: yes, but to divorce Witchblood from its aesthetic appeal is to do it a disservice. It looks cool, and that’s great, but the coolness infusing every panel is part of what makes the story compelling. In the same way that Sofia Coppola’s dreamy, gauzy pastels and Anna Biller’s hand-hooked pentacle rug in The Love Witch aren’t just meaningless set dressing, Witchblood‘s character designs and fashion choices are one of many things that make this comic feel so fresh.
I mean, of course character design is important to the story; that’s sort of comics 101, isn’t it? But (after a short scene where someone’s eyes are stolen by some mysterious figure living in a shed—you know how it is) issue three starts off with issue one’s foul-mouthed driver—who we now know is named Atlacoya, or Atla for short—in a new, softer outfit. Instead of her structured, asymmetrical yellow coat all covered in pockets and buttons, we have her seated on a bed in a loose gray shirt that appears to be worn ragged at the collar. Her hair is loose and flowing and there’s a bandage on her cheek. She looks soft, at ease; a far cry from how we’ve seen her before.
But the bandage here is key. Even ostensibly at rest, we’re reminded she’s a fighter—a good one, because a new character, equally stylish, asks when Atlacoya started losing fights. She hones in on a newspaper stating that teens have been blinded in the third attack in this area—the gruesome eye theft we saw in the issue’s opening scene. It’s clear, not just from the dialog on the page but also Atlacoya’s entire appearance that any semblance of relaxation is only temporary.
Of course, the issue goes on to show us just that. Atlacoya slips back into the outfit we know—that structured jacket, thick belt, wide-brimmed black hat, and dangling cross earrings—which also speaks to aspects of her personality. She never quite leaves the uniform behind, but there is still an element of dressing up when she sets out to be Atlacoya, not just herself. These kinds of details allow us to read her before we read her, with the story details making her outfit feel not just stylish, but also true.
Fashion aside, the issue does return to Yonna, but several other characters, Atlacoya included, also get a chance to shine in issue three. We get a few tastes of horror in this otherwise candy-colored comic, mostly brought to the forefront by a new witch—the others, thus far, have been maybe intimidating, but not scary. In this issue, you start to see why characters like Atlacoya might be invested in stopping them.
That’s actually one of the series’ best features so far. Though Yonna may feel a lot like our core protagonist, she’s also just one hinge on which the story turns. She’s also not entirely “good” in a narrative sense; she seems to be on her own mission that doesn’t entirely overlap with “for the good of humanity.” That’s one of the many things that makes this story interesting—no one character seems entirely good or evil, and even the ones that maybe are evil feel so exciting to read about that I’m kind of willing to let it slide.
Witchblood is a riot to read; it’s funny and audacious, brilliantly written, drawn, colored, and lettered with style at every level. It’d be a mistake to call it light-hearted—again, someone’s eyes get stolen in the opening scene—but I look forward to every new, bright issue as something that’s going to thrill and excite me.