Hello, double digits! It’s Day Ten already—time flies like an arrow*!
With kids returning to school following the holiday** season, I see no better time to talk about The Woods, in which a preparatory school from Milwaukee vanishes and reappears on another planet. (I'm sure that won't happen to your kids, dear reader; don't worry.) The school’s students and faculty have to figure out where they are and how to get home again…preferably without killing each other. Or dying in the alien wilds. They don’t want to do that, either.
The book—created and written by James Tynion IV, who currently writes Detective Comics—combines the emotional drama of high school with the tension of sci-fi survival-horror. On paper, there isn’t much in common here with Detective Comics; but Tynion’s ability to pepper humor in the middle of tension holds true—earning a laugh in the middle of life-or-death stakes isn’t easy, but he consistently succeeds in doing so in The Woods. The other commonality is his penchant for writing younger characters who feel real without sounding like tiny adults or whiney children. He quickly builds distinctive characters among the students by smartly making use of high school character types—the jock, the brain, the class clown, etc—and by making clear that each character the book follows wants something (even if you doesn't always tell you what right away).
Visually, The Woods’s strength lies in its characters physicality and in the design of its alien elements. When a character moves from one panel to the next, whether a character turns away from everyone else at a certain moment—these kinds of decisions provide a rhythm to the action on the page. That, in turn, provides control over pacing—and ultimately, tension. The flora and fauna of this world are monstrous and bizarre—even the adorable pet monkey, Doctor Robot. When compared to the mundane uniformity that accompanies every high school ever built, these designs make for stark contrast between the safety of the known and having to venture out into a bizarre, uncaring world that is likely to kill you.
Huh—that’s almost like a metaphor.
At any rate, this is another book that’s pretty easy to recommend. As with Runaways, The Woods avoids the pitfalls that often come with writing books about younger characters; and the science fiction elements take a backseat to the characters and relationships in the book. Plus, there’s a TV show coming to SyFy, so this is a prime opportunity to be able to say, “Oh, I read the comic before it was a show,” if you’re the kind of monster who likes being able to say that.
*Fruit flies like a banana.
**I want to be inclusive, so I hope you had a festive Candlenights, Mid-Darkmas, or whatever you choose to celebrate.
- The Woods, Vol. 1: The Arrow (#1-4)
Writer: James Tynion IV | Artist: Michael Dialynas | Colorist: Josan Gonzalez | Letterer: Ed Dukeshire | Designer: Scott Newman | Assistant Editor: Jasmine Amiri | Editor: Eric Harburn