Colonial Massachusets, early 1690’s. When a young girl in a Puritan town rejects a farmer boy’s gift and instead slips out into the forest to dance with a young man from the Abenaki tribe, it sets off a chain of events resulting in one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in U.S. history, as neighbor turns against neighbor and friends accuse friends of the most terrible things. A fictional re-imagining of the Salem Witch Trials, in which gender politics, religion, xenophobia, innocent games of fortunetelling, and one man’s sinful indiscretion are all factors that lead to the deadly witch hunt.
Warnings: gore, violence (including blunt trauma), murder, animal cruelty
A retelling of the Salem witch trials, the story begins from the point of view of a young girl, Abigail, who proclaims that it all began with a simple gift that she had taken. The fact that this particular statement doesn’t come around full circle to complete the arc makes the story feel like it is incomplete. Still, the story evokes themes of misogyny, rigid puritanism, xenophobia and hints at how , what was a peaceful seeming town to Abigail became a hell to live in.
The simple choice of having a young teen girl as its protagonist means you get to see her eyes open to the harsh realities of living in a world where she is seen as a thing, where her freedoms are curtailed, where her actions are viewed as an invitation to scorn or lust, depending on the onlooker, and her finding that the lies told by her village’s fiery pastor are much more than just impassioned speeches. The atmosphere of hate, fear and distrust that permeates after her being recognized as of age by the other woman of the town, as well as the betrayal she feels by them, are juxtaposed against the freedom and joy she feels when she meets a Native American boy, who meets her on the nearby forest trails along with her friend.
The story also doesn’t shy away from displaying the cruelty of these so called ‘civilized men of god’, though it could have done with some reserve – there are multiple scenes of brutal killings, one animal and two human – as it does feel superfluous. Additionally, the story as a whole only feels like it has begun, without providing resolution for even one thing in this first volume. Obviously, there is more to come, but this one spends too much time setting up the characters, and driving home some points to feel like a complete book. The artwork is okay, having some well-drawn scenes and a loose style that fits the simplicity of the lifestyle.
Overall, though, it doesn’t feel like a complete story arc.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Europe Comics, via Edelweiss.
Releases on January 16, 2019