“The Woods” #3 is an interesting enough comic that takes James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas’ “trapped in a strange world” series and helps solidify where the book is going. In the process, though, I feel like part of what made the debut of the series work — the feeling that all of these characters were real — is starting to get lost.
The plot behind “The Woods” is certainly one we’ve seen before. (In terms of comics, the classic yet over-the-top horror manga “The Drifting Classroom” certainly leaps to mind.) That’s not a real problem; in many ways, the trope of having an entire school (or any other structure) scooped up and deposited into a strange new world/dimension is familiar enough that it doesn’t require too much explanation. It lets Tynion focus less on the mechanics and more on the aftermath of such an event.
However, with “The Woods” #3, characters are starting to shift a bit out of the nicely realistic take that’s been established, and into something where they’re turning into stereotypes — and that’s unfortunate. This is a book where teenagers are shifting in the blink of an eye from scared and nervous kids into those who suddenly perform heroic acts of potential self-sacrifice. In a book populated by superheroes or other people who fight monsters for a living, that wouldn’t stand out. In a book where part of the initial thrust is that it’s just average, every day people being plunged into a dangerous situation, it stands out.
There are still some touches from that latter depiction here that I do appreciate. I like that the principal is trying to still run the institution as if it’s a school, even if some of the smaller details (like the plumbing no longer working, or the food in the cafeteria already starting to dwindle) is getting lost now in favor of the bigger and more dramatic moments. And in terms of the overall setting, I do like that Tynion clearly has all sorts of mysteries in store, from the structure discovered at the end of the issue, to the horrifying way that the creatures of this world are able to infect and threaten humanity.
Dialynas’s art is good here; it reminds me in many ways of a cross between Paul Grist and Philip Bond. It’s that stripped down and clean style that (happily!) is very much in vogue these days, but with a slightly rougher edge to the characters — a little realistic, a little cartoonish and certainly very expressive. Add in some colors from Josan Gonzalez that look primed for a blacklight experience (you have to see these purples to truly believe them) and it’s a visually striking book, that’s for certain.
“The Woods” #3 isn’t bad, but I do feel like Tynion’s cutting some corners with his characters in order to speed things up a bit. That’s a bit of a shame; I’d rather see them move forward in the plot in a slightly more realistic, human manner. Keep the teenagers acting like teenagers, and I think we’ll be well set.