An ousted magician, banned from her guard because of patriarchal sexism. An ex-police detective who brutally lost her arm. Alone they struggle, together they form the supernatural crime fighting duo Smithers and Wing. However, the people of Edinburgh aren’t too fond of the idea of the occult. With business running dry, our duo takes on the case of a missing schoolgirl. But will this make or break this supernatural pairing?
Publisher: Independent Publishing Network
Writer: Heather Palmer
Artist: Kirsty Hunter
Price: Preorder for £12 from Etsy
Coming in at only sixty pages, our initial worry when beginning this small press graphic novel was that it hadn’t given itself enough time to develop its characters and plot. And yet Smithers and Wing does just that with its focus on partners, both in business and in life, Flora Smithers and August Wing, who run a supernatural crime fighting company. Our dual protagonists are so interesting and unique, that we are drawn to and rooting for them from the beginning.
Although their business is far from popular, quite early in the comic our mystery-loving pair are approached by a school-teacher who is worried about a missing student, Catriona Hewitt. Concerned that there may be a more sinister explanation behind her disappearance than the police are willing to consider, Smithers and Wing begin to investigate Catriona’s seemingly normal life and her unexplainable disappearance. But when they find her hidden notebook with clear incantations marked down, and a pentagram-esque etching engraved on the floorboards underneath her rug, they quickly realise that Catriona’s disappearance involves magic, the occult and the unknown. And it just so happens that they’re the right people to solve this unnerving mystery.
The story moves at a fast pace, yet still manages to have a decent amount of character development and not feel rushed despite its sixty pages. It succeeds in having a wider focus than just the Catriona case; we also get insight into Smithers and Wing’s romantic relationship, and both of their pasts from which they’ve been somewhat exiled. One of our favourite moments involves Smithers confronting her old magical guard, a group of older men who see no validation in women magicians. Not only does she school them on their sexist ideals, but she also exposes that the very company they defend was founded by…wait for it…a woman. It was great to see the council try to awkwardly explain away the significance women had had on their guard (and indeed, on magic itself), while Smithers completely rebuffs them (and wields an awesome blade from the founder to prove her point).
The artwork in general focuses a lot on close up panels of facial expressions, especially when something is going wrong. We really enjoyed the full-page spreads when something dramatic occurred. But our favourite aspect has to be the use of background colours. This is prevalent right from the beginning, when protagonist Smithers wakes up from a nightmarish dream in which she encounters some sort of evil entity. It’s pretty jarring for both Flora and the reader when she’s shaken awake by Wing and brought back into reality. When in her dream state, the panels are drawn in an ominous, cold blue, reflective of Smithers’ anxiety. But when she’s awoken from her dream, the background becomes much more hued and warmer with an autumn-like orange glow.
Before we know anything about Smithers or Wing, these subtle touches tell us a lot about their relationship. Their home is clearly a safe space for both of them, somewhere warm, cluttered and non-threatening, when compared to the cold, empty dreamlike world. To give a small spoiler, Smithers and Wing do, at some point, cross into another world, and the use of colours is handled masterfully here also, with wicked streaks of blood red or cold blue highlighting the danger they are in, and the anxiety they feel.
Smithers and Wing is definitely a treat for those interested in graphic novels focusing on the occult and the supernatural, and after initially funding on Kickstarter, is now available to preorder on Etsy! We recommend that all witches, wizards and sorceresses go grab a copy!