Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Review: Witches, Dragons, Magic, & Cats by Carey Pietsch

Witches, Dragons, Magic, & Cats is a collection of  short stories by Carey Pietsch. This collection is a 32 page black and white comic with color cover pages. Pietsch has recently been working on the Adventure Time comic Marceline Gone Adrift, and while I have heard good things about the series (written by Meredith Gran), I’m excited to see Pietsch working on her own comics again. This collection features comics anthologized in Hana Doki Kira, Terrestrial, and a new comic, “Mending.”

The three stories featured in Witches, Dragons, Magic, & Cats all follow a similar emotional trajectory, and one that seems to follow from Pietsch’s oeuvre. Pietsch creates stories that focus on the development/expression of personal bravery, goodness of heart, the creation or value of family, inclusion, and loving intention. One of Pietsch’s characters says “So much of magic is being clever and fierce and kind,” and the stories in this collection epitomize that well: “Familiar,” is a story of the bonds of a group of magical girls who are mourning the loss of their advisor cat, similar to Artemis from Sailor Moon; “The Witches’ Daughters” is about an adult daughter of a witch and a woman who has
been cursed to always be thirsty; and “Mending,” is a story about a young girl with a knack for healing and a thirst for adventure.

Witches, Dragons, Magic, & Cats is also a collection that feels aspirational. Pietsch’s comics tend to range from being fantasy-tinged to full-on fantasy worlds, and the gradation is a place where Pietsch can play with the themes she is invoking. In Pietsch’s comics I am reminded of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, with its agrarian society and fantastic setting. Most of Pietsch’s characters are girls and women of color, taking leading roles in settings that have traditionally been portrayed in fantasy stories by white men. I think that in general science fiction and fantasy have a representation problem as epitomized by the Sad Puppy shenanigans at this year’s Hugo Awards, and I think it’s important to create stories with diverse casts.

Folks that have kept up with Pietsch’s short comics over the past two years will have already seen “Familiar” and “The Witches’ Daughters,”
but the addition of the new comic “Mending” is certainly worth your attention. The growth from beginning to end of this personal anthology is striking. Pietsch seems a much more confident storyteller by the end of the anthology. As a reader, the short comics Pietsch creates always feel like a snapshot of a much larger fiction, and I’m always a little disappointed that they end. I think that desire to find out more about Pietsch’s characters and worlds is telling.

Carey Pietsch careydraws is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Brooklyn. You can find more of her work at her website.

An abbreviated version of this review appeared in Selections #2, a comics review zine published for SPX 2015. A copy of this anthology was provided by the author. If you enjoyed this review, or other writing on Sequential State, please become a patron on Patreon.

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