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Graphic Novel Review: Spell Checkers by Jamie S. Rich, Nicolas Hitori de and Joelle Jones

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This latest collected edition from the excellent Oni Press begins with a short sequence introducing the three main characters as they renew their witch-vows in order to maintain the crucial bond between them that gives them their powers — powers that are inextricably linked with the doll that each of them possesses. We then cut to the girls at school as one of them discovers that someone has daubed abusive graffiti on her locker. The story unfolds as the three attempt to discover who is responsible while using their witch-powers in increasingly desperate bids to retain their waning popularity.

In less expert hands, the supernatural element could be seen at times to be merely a device by which the creators attempt to make more exotic and sexy what is essentially a teen comedy-drama, replete with the requisite pratfalls, conflicts and moments of cringe-worthy awkwardness that define the genre. However, the narrative is deftly handled and perfectly paced to ensure that pages are kept turning, while the wise-ass humor flows thick and fast. The dialogue is sharp, witty and well observed, and the manga-influenced artwork is perfectly suited to the material, at first glance appearing sketchy and throwaway but, on closer reading, revealing depth, detail and subtlety of expression and character.

Ultimately, though, Spell Checkers is a smart, sassy comic book for worldly teenagers. It might not change your life, but, if you enjoy a thick streak of pitch-black comedy running through your supernatural teen drama, Spell Checkers will work its magic every time.

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