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Comic Review: Widdershins

Posted by Sian, Jan 2016. Kate Ashwin owns rights to cartoon imagery on this page.

Have you not been to Widdershins? Next time you visit West Yorkshire make sure you drop by!

Kate Ashwin has developed a beautiful web comic which explores England’s fictitious magical capital, Widdershins. The story for Widdershins is set during Victorian times and follows the adventures of some fun and peculiar characters investigating strange happenings about town.

Widdershins entails themes about how failed wizards can turn their lives around and how strong-willed women, such as the Barbers can strive for success, but may need a little help along the way.

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Once you have read this review you may be interested to read an interview with the Widdershins creator, Kate Ashwin:

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Widdershins carries a strong message about building friendships and trust with those we work with during our busy lives. This is what makes Widdershins so relevant to today; ironic considering that it provides a wonderful world of magic and escapism. The balance of magic in the pages is just right; nothing is over-powered or over-complicated to explain, thus the story flows well. Apparitions appear as a representation of people’s moods and this is something everyone can relate to. 

A wry sense of humour features throughout volumes 1 to 5, and this is most strongly channelled through the Barber sisters Nicola and Harriet. These characters haven’t yet featured in the same scene but I find their look and job roles very similar. One is captain of the police whereas the other is a bounty hunter and I look forward to finding out more about how these characters are distinguished. They are both action ladies, always on the alert, who seem keen to uphold the Barber family’s reputation and are cautious of those they meet.

Kate’s story-telling is special, in that it is well thought out and provides plentiful variety. As a summary, volume 1 features theatrics and relic hunting whilst volume 2 addresses the political theme about the acceptance of magical talents in society. Volume 3 offers a classical whodunit story with a clockwork twist. Volume 4 is about food for thought as you can’t go wrong with cake. Finally, volume 5 is about the feeling of envy and whether it is worth having it all.

The exchange of dialogue between the characters is constant and I like how dialogue between Harriet and magician, Sydney Malik, bounce off each other. The layout is clear-cut and it is always easy to tell which character is speaking. However, the way in which text in speech bubbles are part-hidden for magician Sydney Malik, can be a little annoying in volume 1, but I understand this is to show that his character rambles and what he says can be of little importance when he gets carried away. 

What I really admire about Widdershins is that you can tell Kate has clearly researched and presented how people and places were stylised during Victorian times. Kate’s artwork has a delicate touch and she certainly has a great eye for detail. I like the fact that she provides concept art with explanations towards the back of later volumes. This helps us understand where her ideas came from and what truly materialised. For instance, Kate’s notes on the origins of magician Chung Soo in volume 3 may surprise you.  

Another important point is that Kate has sensitively and thoughtfully brought leading characters of diverse ethnicity to her Widdershins world. Sydney Malik is the first character we are introduced to, who is of Asian heritage and Alexa King, who is the main character in volume 4 has a mixed race background. Henrich Wolfe, who first cameos in volume 1 is German and is shown to have spoken or written in his native language. Encouraging such diversity in comics is positive because it makes them more accessible and relatable to people around the world.

Interested to learn more? Click on links below to learn more about Kate and her Widdershins world:

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