(BOOM! Studios, 2014)
Created & Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Michael Dialynas
Color Artwork by Josan Gonzalez
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
We’ve been taught since our youngest remembrances not to go into the woods by ourselves. Fear of the Boogie Man, the Big Bad Wolf, or tales of the Mothman or Sasquatch have always been on hand to keep our children from wandering into the real-life dangers of the unknown. We, as adults, know that kids could get lost, fall in an abandoned well (keep a collie on hand), or be picked up by any manner of stranger when lost in the woods. It all amounts to fear of the unknown, and over them millennia that fear has birthed some of the most enduring stories in our literary culture.
James Tynion IV learned from the best. His tutor? None other than Batman scribe Scott Snyder, with whom he wrote several back-up features to Batman and then went on to write DC’s New 52 title Talon as well as Red Hood and the Outlaws. It should be no surprise that we such a talent decides to put out an original project, we should stand up and take notice.
The find folks at BOOM! Studios has just released The Woods Volume 1, the first trade which collects the first four issues, along with all of the alternate covers and assorted artwork. I’d not read the book yet, so I was able to plunge headfirst into the story. I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t more.
The students and faculty of Bay Point Prep School in Milwaukee, WI. have all vanished without a trace, as has the building. It has appeared on an unknown moon, orbiting a gas giant, filled with all manner of hungry, weird creatures waiting to eat faces and tear flesh from bone. It’s wonderful.
Mr. Tynion has taken all of my favorite elements from popular genres and smashed them together into one story. There is a post-apocalyptic feeling; the stark nature of the landscape outside of the school gives a nuclear holocaust feeling, as does the mutated nature of the creatures. There is a survivalist aspect that focuses on the core group of kids and one named Sanami, who is the Rambo of the bunch. Stephen King’s The Mist comes to mind; one of my favorite novellas, and the way that the group of people within the abandoned academy begins to fracture and break into smaller groups is reminiscent of that story. (As well as the crazy monsters everywhere.) Tynion provides a great contrast as the kids and adults almost immediately split into their own groups to try to deal with the catastrophe, and leaders come forward. The two age groups are not only naturally pitched against each other, but in this heightened situation, they become almost politically pitched as well. It’s a fascinating read in that respect.
The art, because that truly is a big part of every comic book, is fantastic as well. Michael Dialynas (Amala’s Blade, Adventure Time) provides not only the grim setting and oppressive feeling that accompanies the switch of planet, but balances the mundane seeming situations and the crazy monster fighting ones with equal deftness.
The Woods Volume 1 is pits adult vs. child and child vs. monster. It takes the worry and apocalyptic feel of so much of popular fiction and gives it to use without the zombies, without the mass extinction. (Yet) James Tynion IV has taken the world away in a much more sadistic and wonderful way, by literally taking the world away, and Micheal Dialynas’ art only solidifies the fact that this book will be around for many years to come.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.