Batman writer James Tynion IV has made quite the name for himself in the world of independent comics; writing things such as Memetic, The Backstagers, UFOlogy, as well as my own personal favorite, The Woods.
The Woods is one part Lord of the Flies and one part Mean Girls set on an alien planet with action, suspense, disembowelment, and plenty of teenage drama to keep you constantly flipping the pages even as you roll your eyes at the angst of it all.
In this first volume (collecting issues 1-4), we follow the teens and faculty members of Bay Point College Prep High as they are beamed to a dystopian wasteland surrounded by woods; woods that just so happen to be filled with deadly creatures straight out of Jurassic Park. This is where artist Michael Dialynas shines, employing dark blacks and purples interspersed with brief flashes of bright red gore that perfectly complement Tynion’s unsettling prose and bring this terrifying world to life.
Now that isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its faults. Sometimes the affected “teen speak” Tynion employs in his dialogue comes across as cringeworthy, as do some of our young heroes’ worries and complaints. Case in point, relationship drama shouldn’t really be the first thing on your mind right after being attacked and possibly infected by alien parasites. That being said, our more dramatic characters are typically balanced out by several level-headed foils, thus creating brilliant and unexpected comic relief. Also, while many may make the argument that not a lot happens beyond the initial set-up in this volume, it is important to remember that four issues is a really small portion of this overall story and that there is clearly so much more to be told.
Another positive note about the characters in this book it is that they come in all sizes, shapes, colours, and sexualities. It is always so refreshing to see this level of diversity in books directed at young people, since not seeing yourself represented in media while growing up can permanently alter the way you view yourself and others like you. Tynion, a proud member of the LGBT community himself, knows this and constantly strives to make his books relatable and accessible to all, which I greatly admire.
Now, moving away from the drama and the horror elements, let’s talk about the greatest part of any good dystopian story: the governing structure/division of power. One of my favorite aspects of this series in general is how we are constantly switching back and forth between our core group of rebels throughout their dangerous and downright suicidal trek through the woods, and presiding student body president, Maria, as she tries to keep the Bay Point students safe not only from the monsters outside their walls, but from the passive, negligent, and sometimes mentally unstable adults among their ranks. Maria, though neurotic, has a natural gift for leadership and organisation. Seeing her mobilise an adolescent army all on her own while the braver kids are out fighting for their lives is empowering to say the least, and while it would be very easy to make her the power hungry dictator in this situation, she never strays from her initial mission of keeping everyone alive and safe, even at the risk of her own safety. Now, some of you may be asking yourselves why the principal or some other capable administrator isn’t running the show under such dire circumstances. Let’s just suffice to say that leadership capabilities set in a well-funded Milwaukeean prep school don’t always translate that well to crisis situations. Hence, that juicy corruption of power we all know and love.
This action/thriller is short, gruesome, and completely binge worthy. Perfect for fans of Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire. Give it a shot if you haven’t already.