(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: My ever-growing appreciation for comics from independent publishers has led me to the subject of my latest review: I Am Hexed #1 from Hexed Comic. Headlining under the #EqualityisMagic banner, the comic depicts a modern-day world set in the United States where witches are known to exist but are ostracized by people who do not share these abilities, including some police officers, newscasters, and government officials. The creative team includes Kirsten Thompson as writer, Christianne Gillenardo-Goudreau as interior illustrator, Taylor Esposito as letterer, Little Corvus as cover artist (displayed as featured image), and Meredith McClaren as variant cover artist. Now, let’s dive into the review.
Plot Summary: In the prologue, a suited man downloads a file onto a flash drive from a computer in Roanoke, Virginia, and then sneaks out of a window. Before he can escape, though, at the strike of midnight—the Witching Hour—he is attacked by panthers composed of magical energy. His fate remains unclear. Meanwhile, at the proper start of the issue, the series’ lead Charlie Helm listens in on a conversation between two politicians and learns that her employer, Senator Royce, who is pro-witch, has been arrested. As a result, witches across the nation are being aggressively hounded, and every pro-witch member of Royce’s political staff is now being targeted by federal agents. Given that Charlie is a witch, she is able to cast her way into evading both regular human and witch pursuers alike. Seeking refuge, Charlie visits her ex-girlfriend Jaya Rai, a fellow witch who comforts her and houses her for the night. The following day, Charlie covertly meets an ex-boyfriend and current lawyer to seek counsel. However, Jaya entires the diner and tells Charlie that “they” have found her. In the epilogue on the final page, some pro-witch graffiti artists are spotted and chased by police. The issue ends when one of the fleeing artists is shot from behind while running from an officer.
Plot Analysis: I Am Hexed benefits from having its world established so early into the issue. Personally, I am a large fan of world-building, particularly when it’s employed in the beginning of a new comic series, so I was pleased to get a feel for the time, place, and society within this issue’s pages. Kirsten Thompson excels at writing narration. Her syntax and diction are enthralling, compelling me to continue further. In terms of dialogue, Thompson’s scripts shine in the scenes showcasing the title’s main characters, Charlie and Jaya—they exhibit genuine chemistry in their interactions. Some moments of dialogue featuring minor characters, though, did not seem as strong. Nevertheless, Thompson’s writing is quite solid, and the story itself held my interest very well. The social commentary contained within the comic seems to be an allegory for discrimination against minority groups—be it for reasons of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Witches are persecuted in ways that reflect how people from these groups have faced adversity in the United States and in the world across the recent decades and, in some cases, today. I can stand behind equality being a focal point of I Am Hexed. While the analogy remains a constant throughout the issue, it does not dominate and overtake the story. Whatever underlying themes may be present in the story, the plot on the surface is still the forefront of the comic. This level of balance is a testament to Thompson’s writing and planning.
Characterization: Barring one really aggressively anti-witch newscaster, the strongest personalities within I Am Hexed were displayed in the series’ main characters, Charlie and Jaya. While the two witches share an affinity for the magic arts, many of their similarities end there. I find this amusing, as I understand how people with opposite personality types can end up in romantic relationships. Through a combination of Thompson’s dialogue and Gillenardo-Goudreau’s drawn facial expressions, readers receive enough details to pick up on the two’s distinct personalities, even in the singular issue—which is an important goal for issue #1s to strive toward.
Charlotte “Charlie” Helm: Charlie works (or worked, as it were) as a political staffer for Senator Royce, who was a politician who supported pro-witch legislation. Generally speaking, I do not get a “trouble-maker” vibe from Charlie, as she seems a touch introverted. She is nervous when she reaches out to Jaya, but she is visibly relieved when Jaya welcomes and comforts her. Charlie is precautious, as we see when she cannot sleep the night she becomes a fugitive until she casts an extra ward of protection. So, Charlie appears to be something of a shy worrier, but she demonstrates signs of having an inner warrior. When a couple witches-for-hire come after her, Charlie is capable enough to effectively cast a spell to incapacitate them long enough for her to escape. I look forward to seeing how much further she will be forced out of her shell as the situation demands her to take more assertive measures. Additionally, a promo Hexed Comic published that describes Charlie says that she loves old libraries, hiking, and trying out new versions of spells—whereas she hates squash, bigots, guys who man spread on public transportation, and being told there’s “one right way to do magic.
- Jaya Rai: Jaya’s work within Washington, D.C., puts her in more of a behind-the-scenes role, as she serves as a problem-solver of issues “magical and otherwise.” That profession hints toward her personality, which is a lot more extroverted, adventurous, and outgoing than Charlie’s. She is sassy. She speaks her mind. She is a tease. But she understands the gravity the situations around her, and she is empathetic enough to help in earnest. Her boldness contrast’s with Charlie’s more reserved nature in a way that highlights each characters’s personalties in an admittedly pleasing way. Additionally, Jaya’s promo describes her as loving mochi (yum), Fashion Week, and “causing trouble for people who deserve it”—while hating most root vegetables, when her dad asks her when she’s going to find a “nice man,” clients who try not to pay her, and the Circle (who is the Circle? I imagine future issues shall explain).
Art: As someone who has most of his comic-reading experience rooted in larger publishers (such as DC), I am most accustomed to the art styles used in those books. However, since I began branching out into more and more independent comic publishers, I have encountered styles that differ from these “standards.” I entered I Am Hexed with mixed feelings toward this art style. I recognized Gillenardo-Goudreau’s art as solid quality for the style, but I did not know how I felt about the style itself. The line-work was more pronounced. However, the more I read the issue (and reread it), the more the style grew on me. Gillenardo-Goudreau illustrates everyone to be very expressive. The way she draws the eyes…I could sense the worry, the affection, the frustration—whatever emotion the character was experiencing at any moment came across very strongly. Effective art such as that trumps however I felt about my art style preferences. I commend Gillenardo-Goudreau for a job well-done. By the third read-through of the comic, I could imagine the characters in motion as they progressed through the issue’s events. I am convinced this comic would make for a great animated television series—using this art style! People, I thought the visual presentations of magic in the comic were gorgeous and creative. The origami-fog bird magic scene was perhaps my favorite page, with a close second being the page that had Charlie speak to another witch (Rachel) who materialized (or at least projected herself) through a glass of wine. Having her rise from the wine wearing a dress the color of the beverage showed creativity, and having the wine composing Rachel to drop back into the glass after the “phone call” was over made for a satisfying scene. Anyhow, long-story-short, despite my initial misgivings, Gillenardo-Goudreau delivered artwork that won me over. Is the art style now my favorite? No. But do I love the art style as my preferred one for I Am Hexed? Absolutely.
Final Remarks: Some people prefer their comics to have a limited amount of social commentary, and if you are reading this review and feel that way, your feelings are perfectly valid. However, those who love comics with a message also have valid opinions, and I believe people from that “camp” who give I Am Hexed a chance may find themselves in for an enjoyable start to what could be an even more enjoyable ride longer-term. As of now, only the first issue of this series is available for purchase, but issue #2 has just launched on Kickstarter. If you like stories that center around magic and/or equality, you may be interested in trying I Am Hexed. And if you find yourself a budding fan, you can support the indie comic through Kickstarter. #EqualityisMagic
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.