Review: Spell on Wheels #1


Despite the warm weather that’s hit the northeast this week, we are smack dab in the middle of fall. That means multi-colored leaves, pumpkin spice everything and, of course, Halloween. While there are plenty of comics out there for those who like their All Hallow’s Eve on the scary side (Dark Horse’s Harrow County, to start), Spell on Wheels is for those of us who like a little magic and fun.

 Written by Kate Leth, the book follows three witches who go on a road trip to retrieve their magical bric-a-brac after it gets stolen. Think Practical Magic meets Thelma and Louise. Leth [LINK] (who’s currently killing it on Marvel’s Patsy Walker book) isn’t new to witches in comics. Her story, “School Spirit,” was serialized in the anthology comic Fresh Romance last year and while I wasn’t a big fan of the first installment, [LINK] she clearly learned from her mistakes. While the first chunk of “School Spirit” suffered from choppy stage-setting, she’s in full command of her world and characters here. The first issue of any comic–especially genre fare–runs the risk of burying the reader in exposition, but Leth cleverly works all her wold-building into the plot, making it feel necessary and natural. That’s thanks in large part to audience surrogate, Andy, a spell-caster who’s new to the group. Whenever something needs explaining, Andy’s there to ask the question for us—like the moment when Claire and Jo realize “The Invoking Ritual” has been stolen and the former explains that it’s key to discovering new witches.

 Speaking of the Invoking Ritual, its theft drives the series. In order to get it back, our magical heroines have to track down their stolen property one item at a time until they can find the person who took it in the first place. While we learn the mysterious robber’s connection to the girls by issue’s end, we’re left in the dark about who’s pulling the strings and why they want control of creating new witches. All we know is that they have history with the girls and the impending full moon is vital to their plan. It’s a compelling tease and reason enough to pick up the next issue even if the rest of the comic weren’t as good as it is.

 However, the writing is only part of the appeal and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the wonderful work artist Megan Levens and colorist Marissa Louise do here. There’s a lushness to Levens’s figures that makes the characters–and Claire especially–feel somehow both real and ideal, a curviness that’s somehow sensual. Louise’s work only enhances that, her pleasing mix of cold and warm colors within each panel and page bringing the world to vibrant life.

 Despite its strengths, however, Spell on Wheels isn’t perfect. Leth may have learned from her mistakes on “School Spirit,” but the issue ends a little abruptly, tacking on a scene that might have worked better as the beginning of the next issue. It’s one piece of information too many in an issue that already toes the line on giving the reader too much in one sitting. Still, that’s a minor quibble for a book that’s mostly very fun and very well-written. It’s worth picking up regardless of your feelings on fall or Halloween.

 Rating: 8/10

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.