May 19, 2014

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The Woods #1

The Woods #1
Written by James Tynion
Illustrated by Michael Dialynas
Boom! Studios


Remember The Breakfast Club? 5 students, members of different social groups, who are stuck together one Saturday for detention but it ends up being a life-changing day for them all? Well, The Woods is kind of like that except instead of detention, they're transported to an alien world full of giant death bat creatures. While the high school setting and the general setup feels familiar, this issue is an interesting start which hints at larger mysteries.


As our story begins, we're introduced to two characters, Sanami Ota and Karen Jacobs. Karen is bemoaning her own lack of decisiveness about her future. Meanwhile, Calder Macready, who for some reason is streaking through the school, bursts into the girls locker room.  Calder makes a run for it and eventually runs into Benjamin Stone, who everybody thinks should play football because he's a big strong guy. We also see Maria Ramirez (student council president) arguing with Principal John Beaumont.  The last of the party are Isaac Andrews (upset about not making the school play) and his friend Adrian Roth (the smart guy).  

Once we've met our cast of characters, they're transported with a flash of light to a strange location (even stranger than high school) where it is suddenly dark outside, and the skies are not our skies (given that they appear to be in orbit around a gas giant). Everyone is scared and confused, and the characters learn quickly that this is a very dangerous place. Adrian begins thinking strategically after finding an unusual object, and decides that they need to venture into the woods that now surround the school. He realizes that each of a certain group of teens (Calder, Benjamin, Isaac, himself) has a particular skill set that would be useful in exploration, and makes plans to set off. Karen joins this group despite the wishes of Adrian, and at the end of the first issue, they set off into the woods.

As far as first issues go, this is a pretty solid one but it also feels somewhat familiar in its setup (mysterious goings on in high school - see Buffy, Morning Glories, etc.). This story's premise - an entire high school itself is transplanted to an alien world - is a pretty interesting one.* The very first page of the issue hints that this is not the first time that people have been taken to this strange place, as we see Adrian staring at the object juxtaposed with other very different-looking people (similarly staring at the strange object Adrian encounters).  The art here helps to tell the story. It's very effective at conveying the moody, creepy, sense of unease and dread in which the characters find themselves. There are a few places where the facial acting is a little uneven, but the transition from the ordinary to the horrifically extraordinary is conveyed well, and both the wonder and the menace of the characters' new circumstances are conveyed well, as is the possibility of terrible violence.

This issue introduces us to a large cast of characters, and it's hard to really get to know them based solely on one issue. At the moment they seem mostly like a set of characteristics (the big guy, the goofball, the brain, the girl) but as the story progresses we should get to see their character fleshed out.  There are a lot of mysteries here, one of which includes why there's so much tension between Karen and Adrian (as they clearly have little use for each other).  As the story progresses we should get more of a chance to get to know these characters. This is an intriguing book, one with a lot of potential.

*Editor's Note: There are several manga stories, most notably The Drifting Classroom, that feature a similar theme. The idea of putting kids in dimension-hopping trouble provides a lot of fodder for creators, because there's so much you can do with it. -RobM