In Review: Toil and Trouble #4

You, dear reader, will find the highest bliss, for this is a tale you should not miss. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Wounded from an attack by Graymalkin, the familiar of Riata, witch Smertae hides behind a tree as she tries to heal herself. Only her own familiar, Harpier, keeps her from being murdered. Outstanding image from Kyla Vanderklugt, with everything illustrated and framed perfectly: both magical creatures are engaged in battle on either side of the tree sheltering the witch, who is drawn with her ribs showing, blood streaming down her leg and arm, and her look monstrously feral. The coloring is also superb, with the white features of her face and the telltale spikes protruding from her body drawing focus to her. Simply flawless. Overall grade: A+

The story: Macbeth has returned home, unaware that his wife has fallen under the influence of the witch Riata. If readers are familiar with The Tragedy of Macbeth, his spouse’s final dialogue in the last panel on this opening page is chilling. The scene then moves to the bottom of the ocean, where Smertae is finding a moment of solace in her favorite surroundings, unconcerned with the bodies that float around her of the men she’s killed. Her pause over, she returns to land to ensure that Riata is not causing further mischief with Macbeth. However, she has not gone far riding Harpier, who has assumed the form of a stallion, as a hawk rakes her arm, causing it to violently tear open. This dramatic moment then moves to the final witch of this infamous triad, Cait, who is accompanying the king and Banquo to Inverness. She mocks their naivete as she sees things that they cannot. Page 4 has a fantastic conflict occur: Cait sees that Lady Macbeth has fallen under her sister’s spell and calls her out, causing Riata to unleash a spell knocking the smaller witch from her mount. What happens on 5 is jaw-dropping, with Cait’s dialogue and Riata’s reply fantastic. This classic play is only at the beginning of Act II and writer Mairghread Scott has reinvented it in spectacular style with the witches’ behind-the-scenes’ meddling glorious. Cait and Riata’s dialogue is stellar and Smertae’s plight thrilling. How Smertae rejuvenates herself is spectacular, and the backstory of one witch sad, frightening, and telling. Page 20 has a surprising hitherto untold scene shown, with it being undone by one of the famous justifications from the play. The last two pages have Macbeth’s fate set, though one witch is not done with her sister. I’m upset I have to wait thirty days to see what happens next. Riveting reading. Overall grade: A+

The art: The illustrations and colors are done by Kelly and Nichole Matthews and they continue to be stunning. I am completely taken with how the pair have chosen to show Lady Macbeth under the influence of Riata: a blood dripping right eye that matches the witch’s own crimson orb. This is a sensational way to alert the reader to something the characters don’t know, which is the very definition of dramatic irony. Page 2 has a beautiful scene of Smertae at the bottom of the ocean, with the light rippling upon her in this violet setting beautiful. Starting this page in this manner leads to the shock of her swimming past the multitude of bodies. I also love when a stark red circle is placed over characters when they suffer intense damage; it’s been done in every issue so far, but when Graymalkin strikes it seems all the more violent — plus being contrasted with the snow white of Harpier makes it even more startling. Cait is a wonderfully drawn character, with the green leaves that protrude from her a fantastic representation of her earthly nature and her disarming youth. The magic that comes into play on 4 and 5 are fantastic (Whom do I write a letter to at Marvel to get this pair to do a comic with Dr. Strange or the Scarlet Witch?) and the coloring involved is otherworldly. The best art and coloring of the issue can be found on Page 13. There are two very different styles of visuals occurring because of what the story must do, and are there two different styles of coloring. The top panel is sumptuous and graphic beyond belief, but is so beautiful. Contrasted with the final two panels on the page, it seems as though there are two different sets of artists on this book, but it is all by the Matthews, showing they can do anything. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, narration, screams, sounds, and next issue’s tease are created by Warren Montgomery. I love that he has gone with a unique font for Smertae’s narration, setting it apart from the dialogue as well as ancient looking. There are several sounds in this installment due to the familiars’ fight and they sound great. Montgomery can do every book for Archaia, as far as I’m concerned. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Hidden tales involving sorcery are revealed in this classic tragedy, as three witches cannot stop their hands from meddling in most revered Scotland. Macbeth and his Lady cannot alter their fates due to the weird sisters named Smerate, Riata, and Cait. But you, dear reader, will find the highest bliss, for this is a tale you should not miss. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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