James Tynion IV & Michael Dialynas try to carve out their own place in the supernatural survival genre. How successful were they with “The Woods” #1? Read our spoiler-free review to find out.
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Michael Dialynas
Colors by Josan Gonzales
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine.
What is it about Wisconsin that makes for such creepy comic bookery? “The Woods” #1 attempts to frame the state as a victim yet again of deadly supernatural events. But more “Morning Glories” than “Revival”, “The Woods” pits its adolescent cast against forces that have potentially trapped them and carried them across time and space. The stuff hits the fan pretty quick, which both makes “The Woods” a breezy read, but also evades the first issue pitfalls of taking too much time to get to the point.
That’s not to say that Tynion doesn’t spend plenty of time establishing the principal characters. And what a cast this is. Basically, Tynion’s characterizations serve to make for a well-equipped rag-tag team of survivalists, but also potentially well-rounded characters in their own right. There’s the brains, the brawn, the builder, the nudist (wait, what?), etcetera. However, all of these survival traits fit into specific, realistic high school archetypes. What raises this group above potential parody is the fact that, in all honesty, these seem like pretty ordinary kids. None of them are amazingly successful or necessarily stand out in a crowd. We learn about the things that make them happy and fulfilled, but also experience the failure in their lives.
The way that Tynion’s script and Dialynas’ scene staging weaves us through the major characters in “The Woods” is almost like watching a tracking shot in a great film. The issue opens in earnest on a typical high school day, post-gym class. Karen and Sanami discuss their potential collegiate prospects and fears when another character dashes in and we start to follow him. He runs us past the principal and the head of student council and we learn a little bit about them next, before we’re on to the next thing – you get it. The character-building flows so smoothly along with the everyday goings-on of the school, and the perspective work on Dialynas’ part is magnificently done. Dialynas fills the background with action, even as conversations go on in the foreground. The background action furthers the plot or the character in question, even as something else entirely is happening in the foreground. Dialynas’ (who did terrific visual work on “Amala’s Blade” for Dark Horse last year) has a knack for playfulness and humor in his art and Tynion plays to that, at least in the early goings. Even the characters that have some major negative traits are fun to watch because of his comic skill. Once things get, how do I say, less funny – Dialynas art continues to shine, though we only get hints of the world that lies ahead.
Once the supernatural events take place, the comparison’s to “Morning Glories” and “Sheltered” come into focus. It remains to be seen whether “The Woods” will get as brutal and cutting as “Sheltered”, or as mysterious and clue-filled as “Morning Glories.” That’s less a criticism and more a public service announcement that says that “The Woods” doesn’t have an immediate hook beyond its influences. It’s got a cast of characters that are well-realized (for their first issue) and a mysterious glowing indication that the cast is no longer in the world they once knew. That’s enough, for now, considering most first issues don’t get a chance to establish their characters properly or get to the point. “The Woods” manages to do both, rather deftly.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Buy