As with most creator owned series, I picked this one up without really knowing what was going on. However, after doing a little research into The Woods before opening up the book — my interest was piqued; what does this series have to offer? Is it good?
The Woods #1 (Boom! Studios)
It seems like just another normal day in the life of a few average high school students in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then out of nowhere, everything changes. Their high school and everyone in it is teleported to a deep, dark forest on what appears to be an alien planet. There, trouble begins and nothing will be the same.
Bright, blinding lights always mean bad things.
A big reason I was drawn to The Woods #1 was the premise. The story of a school teleported to a completely different landscape where the characters would have to survive in their new, hostile location with all of its unfamiliarity and horrifying secrets reminded me of one of my favorite horror mangas of all time, The Drifting Classroom (which spawned two films, a Japanese film and a direct-to-TV film in America during the 90’s); the latter’s plot is similar but different in ways: a Japanese elementary school is transported to a desert wasteland with the students and teachers having to survive as everything falls apart around them. The similar premise is what sold me… so was the writing in The Woods able to hold up?
This first issue does quite a lot in its few pages. It establishes all the characters, sets up the plot and direction for the series, introduces the setting and mysteries around them, and establishes the tone and feel for the book. I appreciate the comic getting all of this done and over with in the first issue without dragging it out; the trouble is that the writing suffers for it.
The story feels very rushed and cramped by trying to do too much, leading to moments with leaps of logic and no explanations for decisions characters reach in the story (basically everything Adrian says towards the end for instance). Characters are introduced and as I said, you are given a bit of insight into them, but you don’t form any connections or particularly care about them all that much. In fact, when one character dies, you are left feeling cold and indifferent because you basically know nothing about them (also, you are probably left wondering who the heck that kid was and why someone so young was in the high school to begin with). There is some believability to how the characters act and think, as they definitely evoke a teenager vibe — you just don’t form any attachments to them and you are just confused with some of their choices.
Things in reflections of glasses may be farther than they appear.
Besides how poor the pacing is, The Woods #1 features some problems in the storytelling itself. Some scenes poorly transition from one to the next; the middle portion is not well structured and feels like the pages and panels have been jumbled around. For instance, the characters are all outside looking at their new environment and then these mutant bat creatures start attacking. Next scene changes to some new characters who are also outside, but everyone is standing around like nothing is happening and there is no panic at all. Sure, not all of the book is like this thankfully, but it’s a little silly and confusing when it does happen.
The rest of the writing is better for the most part. Before the strange leaps in logic and rushed storytelling, the pacing is quite good and the dialogue between characters is strong. The first issue does a good job at establishing what things were like at the school before the transition takes place, but after that the quality takes a dive. That being said, the premise is still pretty strong and the ending looks to be setting up for things to be heading in an interesting direction; there is also a lot of potential here if the writing improves quickly and gets into developing the characters and story.
Obviously, the clear answer is to go closer to the mysterious tree.
The artwork for the series is done by Michael Dialynas and is perfectly fine most of the time (and reminds of Riley Rossmo’s style in areas). The characters look fine and distinct, though at points they look younger than what they really are and some of the girls look more like guys with wigs. The creature and “Woods” design are solid and intimidating looking. The inking and coloring are fine, along with the backgrounds and layouts, even if the story is complicated to follow at different points.
Is It Good?
The Woods #1 is a comic that shows potential with a familiar story but is ultimately hampered by a very rushed setup and ending and a confusing middle. It may be a comic that’ll blossom into something truly terrifying and highly worth your time as more issues come out, but as is, it’s going to need a lot more polish before it’s worth recommending.