“An English town unlike any other…” says the blurb on the back of Volume 1 of Widdershins. And it’s not wrong – Widdershins (the town and the comic) is filled with magic, mysteries, mayhem and a raft of memorable characters. This comic, written by the talented Kate Ashwin and free to read online, is a great mix of good old-fashioned adventure, quick humour and a healthy dose of sarcasm. The stories are essentially based around the town of Widdershins in the 1830s – a town where magic is very real (and rather dangerous).
Volume One, “Sleight of Hand”, focuses on the first meeting of Harry Barber and Sidney Malik. Sidney is a rather unlucky (but extremely polite) wizard, while Harry, whose full name is Harriet, is a gruff, pipe-smoking bounty hunter. They’re not exactly an ideal match but the two are forced to work together when Sidney’s unfortunate talent for accidentally stealing things makes him the King of Thieves.
Volume Two sees us picking up the story of two characters who had a very small appearance in “Sleight of Hand“. “No Rest for the Wicked” tells the tale of Jack O’Malley and Heinrich Wolfe, two friends who travel together. Jack has an unusual gift – he can see spirits of emotion and magic – a gift that he tends to keep hidden. In an attempt to avoid jail-time O’Malley agrees to work for the city council (but only if Wolfe can come with him!) cleaning up ‘malforms’ – half-formed spirits that have been summoned up incorrectly. And, of course, a lot of trouble ensues.
In “Vanishing Act”, the third volume, we return to Harry and Sidney who are working together once more after the disappearance of a old friend of Sidney’s – a talented magician’s assistant. Harry steps in to track her down but ends up confronting some rather interesting issues from her own past (and other people’s ideas of what should be her future!)
The stories on the whole are pretty entertaining. They may not be overly innovative but they’re fun to read. Ashwin is good at pacing, moving the narrative along at a fair speed without skimming over any important information. Ashwin has a lightness of touch and a keen wit that really add to the stories. The comic can occasionally be somewhat hard to follow due to the placement of speech bubbles and the layout of panels. These are fairly minor gripes, easily resolved with a quick re-read. The dialogue itself is done well – the speech is fairly naturalistic and flows well. Without getting bogged down in trying to mimic 19th century speech exactly, Ashwin has nonetheless given a decent nod to how people of the time might have spoken.
The artwork is dynamic and bright – it’s a pleasure to look at. The characters are all very animated, their expressions easily read. As a reader this is always important to me – stiff and unnatural-looking characters can really ruin a good story.
Ashwin happily interacts with readers on the comments section below each post which is nice to see. She posts updates 3 times a week so you’re never left waiting too long for the next installment.
This is a great read for anyone who likes adventure, magic, strong and sarcastic female characters or even just adorable dog sidekicks! To read Widdershins (which now contains an entire 4th story and part of the fifth) check out the website here!