Through the Woods
July 15th 2014
Margaret K. McElderry Books
A fantastically dark and timeless graphic debut, for fans of Grimm Tales, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and the works of Neil Gaiman
'It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there...
I adored Through the Woods. I've always liked Emily Carroll's webcomics, so this isn't exactly surprising, but I've been anticipating this book for a while so it's nice that it fully lived up to my expectations. Through the Woods is a stunning anthology of five truly chilling comics and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to start reading comics who are perhaps looking for something a bit creepy.
The five comics in this book are all really good, and they're all wonderfully unsettling if not outright creepy, but everyone will have their favourites and some of the stories are definitely stronger than the others. I'm just going to go through them all because I don't really know how to review comics. Or anthologies. FUN!
The first story, Our Neighbour's House, is the shortest story (I think), but it sets the tone for the book perfectly. It tells the story of three sisters, left at home waiting for their father to come home from a hunting trip (and no, it does not turn into a genderbent version of Supernatural with an extra added sibling, but that would have been awesome). It's eerie, but subtle, and I think it's definitely the best story of the book to ease the reader into Carroll's style of creepiness and sets the atmosphere really well.
The second story - A Lady's Hands Are Cold - was one of my favourites, though I did genuinely like them all a lot. It's the most fairy taleish of the stories, telling the story of a woman who gets married and is then haunted by a ghost. It is magical and creepy and it's a tiny bit gross and I loved it. There is a sense of otherwordliness to all of these stories as some of them feel like horror-fairytale hybrids, but I think A Lady's Hands Are Cold is where I felt this the strongest.
His Face All Red is the only one of the stories that was originally a webcomic (you can still read it online so if you're not sure you could read it to get a taste of Through the Woods). It's actually the first one of her comics which I read, but I still enjoyed getting to read it again in a different format, even though I will say that I think it might actually work better as a webcomic? There's something about the way that it's formatted, that the screen is all black apart from the panels, and you just keep scrolling and scrolling down which creates this real sense of unease. But it's still great in the book, and it's one of my favourite of her stories.
The last two stories were, respectively, my least and most favourite stories in the collection. My Friend Janna was still good (in my opinion there isn't really a bad story in this book), but for me it lacked something, even if I can't put into words exactly what I think it was missing. It just didn't have quite the same impact or uneasiness about it that the other stories had by comparison. Nesting Place, on the other hand, was just so good. It's longest of the stories, and probably the most horrific (by which I mean there are some quite horrifying panels, but nothing *too* scary). Emily Carroll is just so good at cultivating a sense of dread, where you're both too eager and too scared to turn the next page, and I think that that feeling is most present in Nesting Place.
I think that as a whole text it is just so well put together. The stories felt like they were in the right order (though it doesn't really matter what order you read them in), and I loved the fact that there was an introduction and conclusion, too, to really make it feel like one cohesive thing rather than bitty stories that didn't really go together, you know? And I love these kinds of more psychological horror stories, anyway. It's not about seeing the monster, or even knowing what the monster is/if there is a monster. It's all about the power of suggestion, the hint of something terrible and leaving your own imagination to fill in the gaps. It's also just a beautiful book. The artwork and panelling all really suit the stories and the colouring is so stark and simple and it all just works so darn well.
I think it's pretty obvious by now that I loved this book. It's the kind of book I want to force into peoples hands whether they want to read it or not. It's a pretty quick read, too, but they're the kind of stories that you can come back to, and it's just such a beautiful book that you want to own it even if you do only read it once. So yeah. Go read some creepy comics, guys. DO IT.