When I first discovered writer Aaron Reese’s Webtoon series Bytchcraft, it was through Twitter. Its premise of Black queer witch shenanigans persuaded me to read the comic, and I was impressed in more ways than one.
The first chapter, “Back Issue Tango,” introduces the wytch Em and their magical goat familiar Shirley as they summon dark magic to read several comic books at once. Two other unnamed Black wytches are seen observing Em until Em’s power starts to leak out from their room. One of the other Black wytches, who appears to be female, goes to check on Em, asking, “Are those comics? Why don’t you stop buying the books until you catch up?” The comic ends with Em yelling, “Mind yo’ business!” as the other wytch suddenly finds themself outside Em’s room with the door slamming shut.
One of the first reasons this webtoon impressed me with its first chapter is the humorous dialogue. I especially liked seeing Em talk with Shirley as they start tapping into their magic and the line “Were you twerking with the devil again?” It’s fun, and it reminds me of similar characters like Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina talking to the cat Salem or the titular Cardcaptor Sakura talking to Kero. The scenario of using magic to catch up on reading is relatable and is reminiscent of an episode of the 2000s Teen Titans cartoon starring the half-demon empath superhero Raven.
The visuals and colors for this chapter, done by NourtArts, are appealing, too. Even with as little as three characters, the way hair is drawn looks good and down to earth, like the characters could be my cousins or friends. The colors in this chapter are a mix of dark purples and blues with a splash of red and resemble pastels or watercolor. The red stands out when magic is being used.
The only minor issue this chapter has is that some of the words are hard to read on both mobile and PC devices. Although the gothic font suits the webtoon’s theme, some of it is blurry even when you zoom in on a PC. Despite this, the lettering enhances the magic of certain characters. When Em yells at the end of this chapter, the letters are in all caps and remind me of ghost tails due to the use of slightly curly letters.
The second chapter, “Spoiler Alert,” involves a wytch named Adriyel trying to avoid spoilers for a show by taking apart electronics with his magic, only to have his clairvoyance powers spoil the show anyway.
The art in this chapter is by David Stoll. Purple is a theme here when it comes to Adriyel’s magical powers. The art is especially striking when Adriyel’s clairvoyance unwittingly activates and his raven familiars and magic symbols flank him. The only flaw in this chapter is that there is another wytch who isn’t named. They provide some indignant commentary as Adriyel uses magic on the Wi-Fi modem, television and the other wytch’s phone as they try to avoid spoilers. I hope Adriyel can put the phone back together, because I would be annoyed if a wytch used magic to take apart my phone to avoid spoilers.
The third chapter is called “Michele’s Self Care Day,” and the art is by AnushBanush. Michele is a wytch asking for reassurance from her familiar, a cute cheetah named Rose. Suddenly, the pair are swept off their feet by Michele’s magic, which was summoned unintentionally due either to Michele’s self doubt or Rose taking the initiative. Yet somehow, Michele lands on solid ground in front of a lake that reflects the sky and herself. The chapter ends with Michele’s reflection calmly stating, “You had it all along. You need not ask magical one, only affirm.”
According to the creator’s note at the end, this chapter is a love letter to anyone who has forgotten their magic. This particular chapter is my favorite so far because of the themes of softness and inner peace evoked by the coloring as well as the dialogue. The color theme for this comic is a calming blue, which is prominently seen in the art and lettering. As in the first chapter, the final image of the comic is a highlight due to Michele’s calm, confident reflection surrounded by the stars and the moon.
Overall, I love what I’ve read of this comic so far. Each chapter has reminded me of one of those bite-sized newspaper comic strips, only more mature and fantastical in tone. The characters featured so far are entertaining and each story theme engaging. It truly feels like a love letter to Blackness and magic, and it’s a lot of fun.
Latonya Pennington is a freelance contributor whose comics criticism can be found at Women Write About Comics, Comic Book Herald, Newsarama and Shelfdust, among others.