I’m going to start off by saying that I liked this book; I liked it a lot actually. That said it has been very difficult to review it. It’s not that it’s difficult to explain because it’s actually very simple to explain: a high school full of students is transported to an alien moon to be tested by the natives. That’s the general idea because the story is character driven, but I can’t do the characters justice in a review. The opening of the story takes place back on earth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We're introduced to our main characters as we get snapshots of their lives. It’s the perfect opening for the story because it shows our characters absorbed into their daily lives and daily problems, problems that soon enough won't matter. After the introductions there’s a flash of white light and the entire school is transported to the alien land which is covered in a thick forest. Everyone is very confused at first, but then a tree explodes and flying bat creatures pour out and begin attacking and biting the students. This sends everyone into a panic of course and they head back into the school.
Rather than thinking he’ll be safe Adrian Roth sees what the situation is… it’s a test. He gathers select members of the student body to go out into the forest and begin the test rather than saying in the school and pretending everything will be okay.
The characters come across very naturally. James Tynion IV creates a cast full of stereotypes, but quickly dives deeper into their personalities so that the reader can relate and understand that they’re no more of a stereotype than you or I.
Tynion’s dialogue is fluid as conversations are believable and handled realistically. I wouldn’t say that he’s captured high school students perfectly because then this story would be annoying, but he’s captured the accepted cultural standard of a high school student in a story. I know that doesn’t sound flattering, but I would point out that I can’t think of a recent comic book, TV show or film that has managed to do this is the past year or so, so it is a compliment of sorts.
I’ll be upfront and say that I’m hugely biased when it comes to Michael Dialynas’ artwork. I’ve been a huge fan of his since discovering him via Amala’s Blade and I’ve been waiting with bated breath to see more of his work. With that put aside I have to say that he’s grown as an artist since Amala’s Blade. What was amazing to me is that the students look like high school students and I’m not just talking about the main characters, but the entire student body. I know that should be a “no duh”, but let’s all be honest without selves and admit that we can't remember a time that high schools looked like high schoolers in a comic book. I was impressed.
Dialynas shines on the artwork. He not only brings the world to life, but he instills so much personality into the characters. Don’t get me wrong the dialogue does a wonderful job of giving them personalities to begin with, but the artwork brings out that personality visually and gives the characters life. In my interview with Dialynas he said that he enjoyed Karen and within two pages I was there with him. She and surprisingly Calder were two of my instant favorites.
I don’t know if I can continue reviewing this series. Not because I think it’s going to get bad or that I didn’t like it; it’s actually the opposite, I liked it too much. It’s a series that I want to enjoy more than analyze and I’m sure that most people can understand that. It’s like when a friend asks you why you buy a particular title but never talk about it, sometimes it’s better to just enjoy a story than to talk about it and I have a feeling The Woods is going to be that way for me. That said you should pick it up. It’s already moved up on my list of mini-series to pay attention to and I’m sure it has more to give us with the next issue.
Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Michael Dialynas Colorist: Josan Gonzalez Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/7/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital