(BOOM! Studios, 2014)
Created & Written by James Tynion IV
Artwork by Michael Dialynas
Color Artwork by Josan Gonzalez
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
As a huge fan of James Tynion IV’s previous work, particularly his Batman related work and especially his collaborative efforts with Batman scribe extraordinaire, Scott Snyder, I was quite excited when I learned of the release of his more horror themed series, The Woods. Now here we are four issues into the dystopic adventure and the narrative is more engrossing than ever. Tynion’s characters are authentic, well defined and above all interesting. They are not the usual conglomerate of nerd, jock, cheerleader and gothic loner; instead Tynion gives us a diverse group of strong, exceptionally engaging characters that run the gamut from likable to loathsome. The narrative is cleverly crafted, maintaining a precise balance as Tynion alternates the focus between the adventuring party and their tense exploration of this alien environment and the developments back at the school where things are growing increasingly dark. Throughout all of the chaotic action and unexpected turn of events, Tynion’s main strength remains his ability to present this varied group of students and faculty members as individuals and not archetypes or stereotypes.
In this issue, the small exploring group consisting of Adrian, Karen and Calder discover the ruins of what appears to be an ancient Mayan ziggurat; however the trio is perplexed when once inside the structure they find messages scrawled on the walls in various languages and alphabets which seem to have been written decades apart from one another. Meanwhile, Sanami, Ben, Isaac and the oddly endearing if easily spooked, cryptozoid, Doctor Robot discover a new and far more dangerous adversary lurking in the woods. As if this wasn’t enough action for a single issue, Tynion turns our attention to the dangerously tense situation back at the school where Maria is being held captive by the sadistic Coach Clay. Things quickly go from bad to worse when the unthinkable and unplanned become reality, suffice to say things do not end well for those on the side of order. This issue truly displays Tynion as a shrewd writer; his penchant for recognizing the capacity of the ordinary person, the average person to rise to the occasion and tap into that latent power of their full potential that lies just beneath the surface, waiting to be called upon in each and every one of us is a theme that quietly runs throughout the narrative and speaks to the relatable nature of all these characters. Clearly Tynion has given each of these characters an exhaustive amount of thought and detailed backstory; this is ultimately what makes them so genuine. The Woods is a story of perseverance and triumph of the human will over unimaginable adversity; at its heart it is a story of survival on a biblical scale yet in the maelstrom of extraordinary events Tynion never loses focus on the voice of the individual and the importance of character development balanced with complex plot progression. The Woods works because it is designed as much as written; this is storytelling at its apex.
Michael Dialynas’ art is exceptional; his attention to detail and stylized approach to anatomy and character design work extraordinarily well with Tynion’s narrative, which could become oppressively dark in the hands of another artist. Dialynas masterfully renders the subtleties of realism, in the way he poses a character that has reaches exhaustion or in the rumpled clothing and disheveled hair of the scouting party, these details work in concert to portray an accurate approximation of terror-stricken students to an unnerving degree. His talent for expressive body language and emotive facial expressions is uncanny and adds a staggering depth to his storytelling.
The Woods is an unflinching character drama driven by Tynion’s precise talent for finding the truth in these characters and giving them authentic individual voices to express that truth. Dialynas’ collaboration works beat for beat with Tynion’s narrative and ups the emotional ante from there raising the stakes, and the tension, to a life or death degree. If you like Tynion’s work on Batman or Talon give this a try; it’s vastly different from his super hero work but equally enthralling and entertaining. (4.5/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.