Check out the AIPT Comics Podcast this Sunday as I got the chance to interview Machado and Dani about this very book!
The Low, Low Woods is the third Hill House Comics launch title from novelist turned comic book writer Carmen Maria Machado and Dani (Coffin Bound). It’s yet another example of how this new line of horror comics curated by Joe Hill is delivering a nostalgic feel with unique horror touches. This is a book that Joe Hill described on the AIPT Comics Podcast as “if Twin Peaks was the setting for a David Cronenberg film.” If that doesn’t get you excited I don’t know what will. Okay, how about the trailer?
This book is my favorite of the Hill House Comics so far thanks to its rich color palette, vividly real characters, and horror that comes at you visually and via prose. The book opens with two girls attending a late movie (eagle-eyed readers will note they are watching Sea Dogs which is also the backup comic to all Hill House Comics and it’s directed by Rob Reiner) and not remembering a single minute of it. It’s a frightening idea to open the book and builds the creepy vibes from there. Soon Machado is detailing the town’s history via captions which basically makes this coal-mining town a hell on Earth. Add to that there are creatures just out of eyeshot in the shadows that will seriously freak you out, but are too weird for the girls to reason are actually real.
The writing is excellent from the dialogue to the captions too. One line, in particular, has my skin crawl every time I read it, which reads, “babies were born with placentas black as soot…their mothers were birthing coal itself.” Yikes. The general pacing of the book mixes visual horror and prose quite well too. There’s no getting away from the nostalgic vibes of two kids riding their bikes late at night and Machado expertly delivers on this with it all dipped in horror.
The visuals by Dani with colors by Tamra Bonvillain are excellent too. I found even the refuse scattered around town horrific in its lighting and rendering. Dani has a way of probing closely elements in a scene that make you reflect on what is really going. Seeing a closeup of popcorn popping as the girls leave the theater is a good example of this. When the horror ramps up, particularly when we see the deer, you yourself with tense up and take notice. Dani has an eye for making characters look and feel real too. Vee and Eldora look just as you might at this age and they have all the concerns and worry we had at that age too. You can see it on their faces which further allows you to connect to the characters.
This is without a doubt one of the strongest first issues of the year. It draws you into the characters’ lives, lays out the unnerving nature of the town and it’s supernatural tilt and satisfies with visual scares without holding back. The Low, Low Woods deftly combines the supernatural with believable characters and setting with an expert sense of dread.