Rev up the engines! Polish your crystals! Light your candles! Okay, I don’t actually know enough about witchcraft to keep that going. This is “Spell On Wheels” #1 from Kate Leth, Megan Levens and Marissa Louise, a occult roadtrip that follows three young witches on a quest to retrieve their stolen possessions. Just in time for Halloween, this isn’t exactly a horror comic, but it is seeped in the occult on every page.
Read on below for our full spoiler free review.
Written by Kate Leth
Illustrated by Megan Levens
Kate Leth and Megan Levens team up for a magical new series! Three young witches are robbed of their magical items, and they’ll have to hit the road to track down the mysterious thief before he does any damage to, or with, their possessions. Supernatural meets Buffy and The Craft!
The road trip is a quintessential story telling device and it’s hard for it not to be effective. Taking a handful of a characters, giving them a goal that sits halfway across the country and sending them on their way across the land to encounter a series of weird and wonderful roadblocks along the way is a structure that can make damn near any movie enjoyable. Hell, it’s the reason we got a million and a half of those films in the early 2000s. “Spell On Wheels” #1, however, doesn’t just sit on the laurels of that structure to tell easy jokes, instead this first issue is the set up for a quest that three young witches undertake in order to retrieve their stolen possessions.
This first issue is almost entirely setup for the ensuing road trip. It puts all the pieces on the table, introducing the witches and their individual abilities and the inciting theft that sparks their need to road trip after the culprit as well as the personal connection one of them has to the thief. It’s an issue built around showing the reader each individual piece of the story and allowing that to spark the interest of the reader in order for them to come back next issue. This issue is like a carnival barker, yelling at passing by readers and asking them if they like occultism, strong female friendships, road trips and a dark, underlying mystery at the heart of their comics. It’s a first issue that’s built on enticing the reader to want more while setting up the actual road trip that kicks off with a cliffhanger at the end of this issue.
At the core of that enticement are the three witches themselves. Immediately, these three young women feel fully realised and personable thanks to the writing of Kate Leth. As the issue unfolds, readers learn of their individual abilities and Leth and Megan Leven do a fantastic job of using that to inform their personalities. Claire, for example, is clairvoyant and sensitive to visions which Leth and Leven tie into her seemingly anxious nature and the way she uses her friends as a support network. It’s the character moments that make this issue work more than anything else. Leth and Leven have put a lot of work into not only making these characters feel realised and giving them depth in a short amount of time, but making their friendship the core of the book and showing the strength of that.
What may be surprising about “Spell On Wheels” #1 is how bright it is artistically. The words witchcraft and occultism tend to illicit rather dark images, with brooding witches in black cloaks with tents full of cobwebs, spiders and skulls. This is a much more modern take on witchcraft in which these three witches are pretty indistinguishable from most girls with goth-y, punk-inspired fashion these days. Megan Levens’ artwork brings a life to “Spell On Wheels” that is simply delightful. It is upbeat and lively and the linework has a cartoon-y take on reality that keeps the story grounded while not feeling overly realistic. That liveliness extends to Levens’ storytelling, too.
This issue is largely centred around the three witches discussing the aftermath of the robbery, meaning there is a large part of this issue that is centred around their dialogue. Levens brings a levity to these pages with some densely packed pages in which the panels focus close on the characters and their expressions. Levens characters are just over-the-top enough to bring a sense of dynamism to these closeups, making the character moments all the more interesting. Claire, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is wrought with worry and anxiety throughout the issue and so Levens juxtaposes her larger frame compared to the other girls by having her hold herself with worry. Jolene, meanwhile, is much smaller, but frequently taking charge and forging ahead which Levens uses to great effect through her posture and expressions. Andy, finally, is often shown much smaller than the other two, almost shrinking into herself and the panels are blocked in such a way that she her friends physically tower over her which reinforces a timidness in her emotions.Continued below
It speaks to a careful level of craft put into exploring the friendship of these three in just the one issue. We get such a strong sense of these three and the relationship to one another that it’s hard not to want to know what happens to them going forth. That liveliness brings a very unique quality to a subject that is so often linked to darkness and horror. From the descriptions of this book, one might suspect something akin to The Craft or Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but thanks to the colours from Marissa Louise, there’s a vibrancy to the world. Even from the girls themselves, with Claire’s bright red hair and Andy’s purple lipstick, this book is colourful and vibrant and it goes a long way to bringing levity to a situation that would otherwise be horrifying.
This issue deals with the fallout of an invasion of privacy from someone who should have been trustworthy and it’s the vibrancy of Louise’s colours and the liveliness of Leven’s artwork and the rich characterisation of Leth’s writing that keep it from feeling horrific. This issue focuses on the trauma felt by these girls and how they become a support network for one another only to feel empowered enough to go out and take back what’s theirs. That’s what makes this issue so enjoyable. It may largely focus on the setup of the story, taking until the last few pages to really kick off the promised road trip, but the emotional core of the story are these three women and their relationship with one another. It’s hard to find a hook more compelling than three friends standing up for one another against the world.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – A lively book that focuses on the strength of relationships that also promises a fun road trip along the way.