By: James Tynion IV (writer), Michael Dialynas (art), Josan Gonzalez (colors)
The Story: You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby…
The Review: As The Woods #3 opens Principal Beaumont is giving an impassioned speech. He swears his dedication to the cause and promises to protect his students. The first page is barely over and you’re already sure that Beaumont didn’t write his own speech.
The Woods #3 shows a deft mixture of character work and plot progression. As our attention shifts back towards the adventuring party and into the darkest parts of the school, we’re seeing the characters as individuals. This remains the series’ greatest strength. While it’s admittedly hard to believe that none of the teens have the utter freak out that the situation deserves, the least composed of them quietly panicking or merely welching on heroic actions, the woods are revealing their character in a way that many such scenarios simply fail to do.
Adrian Roth doesn’t get the kind of screen time you might expect this month, but he has a single moment that is bound to change the dynamic of the series going forward and immediately puts him back in the spotlight. Likewise Ben continues to be my favorite character by a long margin, displaying an equal and opposite reaction.
These are big moments that you expect, but one of the most crucial moments, in my view, is a quiet one, easy to overlook. When Adrian makes his choice, one character questions him, but they don’t press the issue. Tynion is a smart writer, one who obviously considers issues in a way that acknowledges the power of compliancy. It’s the sturdiness of Tynion’s writing that makes The Woods, the sense that he has given this the thought and the empathy it needs to thrive.
Meanwhile, Maria finds herself imprisoned by Coach Clay. This section is well-written but, with one exception, fails to deviate from expectations of the genre.
In fact, if Tynion has any serious problem on this series, it’s that he doesn’t always pay out on the reader’s investments. That can mean not surprising the reader or failing to conform to appropriate expectations or even both! Despite Calder’s injury being the major focus of last issue, that plot thread receives a visually shocking but narratively predictable resolution and quickly gets out of the way of new threads, some that it was clearly a stepping stone to and others that are essentially unrelated.
Michael Dialynas’ art remains attractive. There’s a harsher quality about the linework this month that suits the more dire circumstances. Occasionally this doesn’t mesh well, particularly with eyes, and images can appear unnatural. That said, for the most part it’s more of the same solid artwork we’ve come to expect. In fact, I actually like the fine detail work in this issue better than in its predecessors. Particularly from a distance, where many artists lose definition, Dialynas shines.
Dialynas also has a real talent for body language. You can really feel how each of the characters holds themselves. This has obvious, though no less impressive, applications, like an early panel of the adventuring party fleeing, but there are even more nuanced details. I keep finding myself drawn to how Dialynas draws collapsed figures, the attention he pays to how they carry their weight when they don’t have the strength to stand. It’s a subtle realism that takes a minute to recognize but no time at all to appreciate. Likewise, though they dry unevenly and with remarkable swiftness, there’s some solid effort put into depicting the effects of an unexpected swim on the characters’ clothing.
The Conclusion: Though its flaws haven’t all been smoothed out yet, The Woods remains a provocative character drama. James Tynion has a knack for finding the truth in these characters’ voices and Michael Dialynas matches him, expressing that truth through their posture. A great final page hook, some dramatic interpersonal shifts, and a commitment to crafting characters you can get to know set this issue, and this series, apart.
Some (Spoilery) Thoughts:
- Adrian’s willingness to leave Isaac is a dramatic turn for the series, one that will almost certainly have big consequences. The intensity of his character is intriguing and the story instantly becomes more interesting when you’re not certain that your lead will do the right thing. That said I have to wonder if this is who Adrian is or if his secret knowledge of the planet has something to do with it.
- I make no secret that something about Ben stood out to me from the word go but I’m not sure if I’m mildly underwhelmed by the implication his returning to protect Isaac and the resulting loss of mystique or thoroughly excited by how adorable it might be. Either way, κῦδος to Michael Dialynas for including the telltale blushing but keeping it subtle enough that I nearly missed it.
– Noah Sharma