The Woods is a comic lovers’ comic. It’s the kind of story whose characters thrive on the rich medium of the comic panel and the spaces in between. Writer James Tynion IV and artist Michael Dialynas are taking the series in an exciting new direction and yet they continue to capitalize on the strengths they’ve built from the start. The characters are vibrant and filled with personality, yet Tynion and Dialynas cleverly move the goalposts a little bit each issue. This comic seems like it is populated with real, dynamic people who live, learn, love and are affected by the surroundings of their universe. All too often comics struggle to maintain the status quo – at least superhero comics do – but these creators seem eager to explore new territory.
Visually this comic relies on a flashback of sorts to dwell in its namesake. The new location of New London has made for some compelling political intrigue and a new backdrop for the interpersonal struggles of the cast, but it certainly doesn’t draw the eye quite like the bizarrely coloured forest we’ve become accustomed too. Dialynas and Tynion still manage to throw in enough creativity to make the city seem vibrant, alive, and unlike anything we’ve seen before. But that doesn’t assuage my longing to return to the haunted woods.
The story seems to have taken a turn, perhaps brief, from the life and death struggles of the wilderness to the espionage drama of society’s movers and shakers deliberating on the fates of others. Treatment of the outsider is a fine way to judge the civilized nature of a society and things have seemed pretty good for our heroes in New London. But an inkling of doubt became a warning klaxon during this issue as a new danger, one much more cruel than the beasts of the forest, emerged to threaten the group of plucky youngsters.
In case it isn’t already incredibly obvious, issues of sexuality have become a driving force in the medium over the last few years. As the fight for marriage equality, amongst other things, has heated up in the United States and in other Western countries, it’s unsurprising that our artwork reflects a progressive line of thinking. In recent issues of The Woods, this one very much included, Tynion and Dialynas have crafted a romantic struggle for same-sex characters that is entirely relatable to straight readers. Comics have pushed the boundaries and championed the causes of society with each successive decade and our current social struggles can be found in books like The Woods that seek deliverance for a belittled group.
The Woods is a series that is difficult to imagine working in any other medium. It fits the mold of what a comic book should be so well and that’s a testament to the creativity and thoughtfulness of the creators. “The Woods #9” broke the mold of pure “fantasy” as the genre for this story and ultimately that could prove to be a blessing. Whether the creators capitalize on the alternative history slant they have recently introduced remains to be seen, but this installment seems to indicate that there is an awful lot of undiscovered territory in The Woods.
“The Woods #9” offers compelling character drama and a dramatic cinematic change for the series. What it lacks in outright action it more than makes up for in setting the table for the next major set piece. The payoff for much of this issue will be seen in the installments that follow making it a hard comic to judge, however, readers that have found Tynion’s snappy dialogue compelling and Dialynas’ art invigorating will continue to enjoy a hearty dose of both this week. Part of me wonders how much more respect this series would garner simply by being published by Image Comics instead of BOOM! Studios, or is it just me? And if my suspicion is correct, what does that say about us as the members of this community?
“The Woods #9” earns 8.5/10