by Matt Puddy
When I was handed the copy of The Woods and told that it looked good, the eager and excited look on the editor’s face should have been a small clue. How could I possibly shy away from such an emphatic appraisal before I had even read the issue?
Written by James Tynion IV, The Woods is a new title for Boom Studios in which a whole school – complete with the standard archetypes – is transported off planet. After building up each of the characters by showing their inner thoughts as well as general conversation, the scene is slowly set. It’s more about what to do, as opposed to what is really going on.
This fact in itself threw me a little, as such a monumental upheaval was dealt with in a relatively minimal way. Due to the story focussing on specific characters, you only get a small sense of the full situation. There are some bolder depictions - like the strange spider-bat creatures that attack or seeing a small girl get eaten in a classroom - but outside of that, it’s quite coldly dealt with. This is all due to the fact that the story clearly isn’t meant to be held within the school. The realisation that the young genius Adrian Roth comes to is that it might all be a test of some sort, theorising that a nearby artefact is a marker, pointing to a secret is held at the centre of the titular woods. A dare, if you will. This is the pivotal point of the issue as it changes the location and potentially sets up the remainder of the series.
A group is formed, including the pushy over-achiever who forces herself in, and preparations are made. It’s time to enter the woods. As they pass the strange triangular artefact, an automated test sequence begins, unseen by our protagonists.
What I really liked about this story is the science-fantasy feel to it all. There is a present-day realism bestowed upon to it all by taking an everyday school, and sticking it in a scenario straight out of Labyrinth or The Neverending Story. The concept of taking such a large cross-section of kids and placing them in mortal danger is also very reminiscent of Battle Royale or more recently The Hunger Games; it isn’t a new idea but it certainly gels with a popular style at the moment. By sectioning off a small group, it keeps it within this genre but also makes it unique at the same time.
So the big question is what will just over 500 people thrust into an alien wilderness do?
Michael Dialynas is the artist for the series. Now being completely honest he is a new artist to me and I have no frame of reference for his other works. But looking at this issue on its own has provided some interesting things. There is lots of creativity in the new creatures that attack the school (and plenty more to come I would assume). The characterisation of the individuals makes it clear as to what these people represent, meaning readers can identify easily and relate more to the story.
From a larger perspective the artwork is quite soft and easy on the eyes. That said, even without huge amounts of details, the faces are incredibly emotive meaning a lot is conveyed without needing extra dialogue.
As a first issue I have to admit that the initial hype that got passed on was well lived up to. It’s a really interesting new comic and aside from the casual ignoring of, “How the hell did we get here and where is here!?” it’s looking like a good story to follow. Tynion IV has played a good opening hand.
Let’s see how deep into the forest we go.
Matt Puddy is a fan of the colour palette too.