By: Natasha Tar
I picked up this zine four years ago, yet even now I like flipping through it for the art. Witchling is a single-issue comic zine by Renee Nault, a Vancouver-born artist. The story follows a young woman and orphan, Jane, who’s outcasted for being small, extremely freckled, and able to talk to animals. She lives in a town called Lymes that’s next to a dangerous wood, which, like most dangerous woods, tends to attract people who are never seen again after venturing into it.
The first six pages don’t contain a word of dialogue, but they are my favourite pages in the entire zine. The art shows a powerful dream sequence, rendered in watercolours and containing a gorgeous, peaceful woodland scene that becomes creepier and creepier as you read on. The whole zine follows this format, going from sweet and bright to dark and unsettling within a few panels. Despite this contrast, Nault masterfully balances these elements, keeping the art interesting and cohesive, and the dialogue snappy.
The biggest problem I have with this zine, however, is that the story was never finished. Online you can find scenes beyond the first comic that should’ve been made into a second issue, but this never happened (which will always be a disappointment for me). I think this has something to do with her work on the graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which was apparently supposed to come out in 2017, but didn’t. Unfortunately, while her art is detailed and beautiful, Nault seems to be a master of empty promises, which deters me from picking up her stuff in the future.
Witchling is available online for free.