An Embarrassment of Witches
Writers: Jenn Jordan, Sophie Goldstein
Artist: Sophie Goldstein
Publisher: IDW/Top Shelf
Price: $9.99-$19.99 (digital or physical)
Buy it here.
An Embarrassment of Witches combines casual fantasy with real-life struggles, for a style that fans of Tuca & Bertie and Carolyn Nowak’s Girl Town will love. Its magical realism provides just enough distance to see every story beat’s reflection back at the reader, balanced with all of life’s natural (and mystical) comedic relief. Although creators Jenn Jordan and Sophie Goldstein focus in on graduation and break-up, the resulting feeling of being suddenly directionless and desperately needing to begin wayfinding again is all too ubiquitous. As life does, An Embarrassment of Witches quickly snowballs into the myriad of difficulties we face when everything else crumbles.
Readers follow Rory and Angela, two roommates and childhood friends in a world extremely similar to ours – just a little bit more magical. In the opening scene, Rory’s tool of a boyfriend breaks up with her right as they’re about to board a flight to Australia for an overseas adventure. Jobless, boyfriend-less and apartment-less, Rory is left with no choice. She moves back into her apartment with Angela, but is left to live in the walk-in closet, since her old room was already rented out to Guy, a dangerously-cool grad school student.
Gradually, the narrative expands to include Angela’s troubles of trying to figure out how to help her friend, as well as her own personal struggles as she starts a high-pressure internship under a terrifyingly strict supervisor. As you might expect, both Rory and Angela’s lives, and their friendship, falls apart.
Narratively and visually, An Embarrassment of Witches is a cool reflection of the real world. The palette is comprised of just a few colors, mostly leaning towards chillier hues: yellow, purple, blue, and green. Of course, they’re gorgeous to look at, but they also carry a lot of weight. Purples and pinks especially separate this casual fantasy from our own, while blues and greens communicate Rory’s procrastination to confront what she’s going through, and yellows more than handle the story’s more exciting moments. There’s a constant rhythm here structurally that follows the same pattern. Walls and floors, more than likely, won’t retain the same color from panel to panel. Instead, they flow along with the scene’s tone, and whatever the character’s going through in the moment.
Goldstein’s lines themselves are just as expressive. Rory, Angela, and the rest of the cast, right down to the animal familiars, have a huge range of emotions that’s deceptively easy to see yourself in. From waxing poetic on something you know nothing about, to the immediate regret of a screaming match with a best friend, or doing everything possible not to screw up the internship of a lifetime, this comic will remind readers of those times, and let those feelings lie out in the open.
An Embarrasment of Witches is its own panacea for those raw feelings with the recognition of how flawed we all are. No one here is perfect. No one has gone without making their share of mistakes. There aren’t villains or heroes. There are just people. I’m certain I’m not the only one who’s extremely called out by Rory’s sporadic decision to go to grad school, or her immediate readiness to try and woo strangers. Yes, it’s embarrassing to remember, but like Rory, the growth is what matters.
As much as the hardships have been addressed already, it would be an injustice to talk about An Embarrassment of Witches without also talking about how funny it is. Magic is, as it turns out, a great way to poke fun at the real world. Here, Goldstein and Jordan use it for sight-gags and satire, all with perfect timing. Frequently a page will masquerade as a few simple panels, that on closer examination will have leave you exhaling out of your nose and grinning. The same is true with the dialogue, which is especially welcome when Rory and Angela are so relatable, and laughing at yourself becomes that much more important.
This comic is about so many things; workplace struggles, feelings of directionlessness, falling in ‘love,’ and the performances we put on to fit in. But that’s all secondary to the simple story of a couple of twenty-somethings growing up. At the end of the day, these two women are ordinary. They’re trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and if they even want to do what they thought they wanted to do. An Embarrassment of Witches is a reminder of how real those anxieties are, where they come from, and how we all feel them at some point.
An Embarassment of Witches is in stores now.