The town of Haresden is plagued by fae problems after their witch dies. Can Jo Manalo talk a young witch passing through into helping her mother? Find out in Mamo #1 from BOOM! Studios.
Writer: Sas Milledge
Artist: Sas Milledge
Editor: Sophie Philips-Roberts
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: July 7, 2021
Previously in Mamo: It takes a hedge witch to manage the magical relationship between townspeople and the local fae. But when the local witch dies, things start to fall into chaos. And when Jo’s mother falls seriously ill, she goes looking for a witch to help out.
COURAGE AND DETERMINATION
Mamo #1 opens outside of the village of Haresden. A young and determined Jo Manalo rides her bike up the road then across the rugged hills to a cliff looking out over the sea where a young blonde woman sits in the back of her SUV, reading. Jo bluntly asks her if she is the witch. Yes she is, but she’s not taking customers today. She can help in four days. For a young witch, she seems averse to the job, which Jo comments on. Her mother has been cursed; if this young woman is the witch, it is her job to help. Jo pleads with her as she walks away, but then a large, black moth materializes on the woman’s chest, then dissipates in the breeze, and she changes her mind.
It’s a terrific opening scene, setting the stage for conflict, hidden stories, and further mysteries. It also sets out some differences and similarities between the two young women. As they make their way to Jo’s house, Jo tentatively starts to confront her expectations that the witch would be old and unfriendly. She is distracted when she sees one of her mother’s silver spoons in the grass. The witch, whose name is Orla O’Reilly, stops her, warning her about the fairy ring it is in. She breaks the ring, and the spoon is just a rusty old spoon. It is unusual for fae to set up an obvious trap like this. Jo tells her things are acting up all around the town. This is probably because no one is treating with the fae, not that Orla intends to step into the job.
As they go through town, everyone stares. Jo explains there has been trouble with the fae. Trees are growing through houses. People blame the witch. Orla observes that she was not the only one Mamo left high and dry, Mamo being her grandmother. Their relationship was plainly not good, and it doesn’t help that even though she has just arrived, the townspeople take against her.
They arrive at Jo’s house, and Jo warns Orla about her two little sisters. They want to know all about the witch and to see some magic! Jo chases them off, but little Ari asks Orla to tell the lady in the attic to go away. Jo’s mother is unconscious and has been for weeks. Jo thinks this is a curse and not an illness because there are also handprints that have appeared on her arm and back.
Orla ties a small bag onto her wrist and goes up to the attack. Jo follows, insisting on helping, and Orla gives her a protection charm to wear. Orla walks into the attack, where a swirl of darkness gathers around her, manifesting as a giant black moth!
WINDSWEPT AND MAGICAL
There is a lot to like about the art in Mamo #1. Some of the style is reminiscent of manga, especially in the characters’ hair and their subtle but meticulous facial expressions. Orla does not share much information about herself, but we see right from the start her guardedness, her reluctance. As she and Jo head into town, Orla’s reluctance increases, and she only softens a little as Jo honestly tries to make friends.
I like the setting and the rugged, windswept hills above the town. Nature abounds in this book, and we feel Orla’s connection to it. There is a wonderful montage of birds in the local forest that is delicately pretty. But as the two girls move through the woods, the trees take on more twisted, weird shapes, which echoes one of the first discussions they have about Orla’s being a witch but not wanting to stay. This sets us up for when we see the town. From a distance, there are no trees close around town. But right in town, the twisted trees have grown up through and around everything. The shift is gradual, but through it, we believe that the fae are in this world, and that witches know how to deal with it.
BOTTOM LINE: FRESH AND ENGAGING
Mamo #1 is a lovely, atmospheric book with two stubborn, independent young women at its center. It’s a great modern take on witches that seems to really connect them with nature, well-written and beautifully drawn.
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When the local witch of Haresden dies, Jo tries to find some help for her town.