I’ve reviewed two issues of Spell of Wheels so far, so it’s no secret that I’m a fan. For anyone that hasn’t jumped into the series, this is the perfect time to climb aboard- the trade paperback collecting issues 1 – 5 comes out tomorrow.
Reviewers (including me) have noted the aesthetic callbacks of Spell of Wheels to nineties movies like The Craft and Practical Magic. The surge of witch-centered media at that time was often associated with post-second-wave-feminism empowerment and considered to be a significant influence on the growth of Paganism and Wicca that lasts to the present day. Spell on Wheels isn’t just the work of former nineties kids Leth, Levens, and Louise; it also focuses on similar themes of capability and independence, as well as the sisterly bonds common to the film narrative.
Main characters Claire, Jolene, and Andy take off across the country after a bunch of their magic items get burglarized and sold on the witchy version of eBay. At first they’re hunting down their stuff, but eventually, they must confront the thief directly, and the dark power hiding him. Both are figures from the heroines’ pasts, and both oppose the way that the trio (and the larger magic community, it is implied) have been seeking new potential witches and helping them develop their powers.
Writer Kate Leth, artist Megan Levens, and colorist Marissa Louise work together beautifully to build a fully-formed world and very tangible characters to inhabit it. Without spending valuable page space over-explaining the tools or traditions of their craft, the Spell on Wheels team establishes the coven’s powers and general backgrounds with the first few pages of the volume. As the story continues, it branches out to include other magical beings and types of magic in a very organic way, revealing as much of the world as is necessary without overwhelming the reader with information.
The characters are well-established in style and personality, but the one thing I would venture to critique is their arc over the course of the story. Andy gets the most development as the youngest and least experienced, and she is challenged in dealing with the Big Bad on a more personal level than her friends. However, most of the narrative space is given to Claire, who is directly linked with the thief. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but for the fact that Claire hasn’t experienced any change by the end of the volume. Hopefully, we’ll see more from this series in the future and we’ll have more opportunities to really delve into Claire’s character as well as Jolene’s.
As far as the overall story, it is very well-paced and nicely wrapped up for a five-issue arc, and it really does have a great atmosphere to immerse the reader. If you’re a fan of supernatural girl power stories a la Buffy or Charmed, this is a great place to get your fix.