I’ve been hearing giddy whispers about this arc of The Woods from James Tynion – and fearful omens from Michael Dialynas – for almost a year now and, with this issue, we’re really starting to get a feel for just how big a game changer this is going to be. The Woods #19 gleefully exploits your hope that things can’t turn out this bad and, even worse, it even delivers from time to time. The result is an issue you can read hurriedly, perhaps even breathlessly, honestly concerned with the welfare of these characters. The structure is a little simple and a little too predictable, but the attention paid to our villains and our reluctant hero is top notch. In fact, it occurs to me that pretty much every one of the characters who plays a significant part in escaping Casey’s trap could be described that way, reluctant hero. Well, every one except one, which gives us a stupendous last minute cliffhanger.
Just as distressing is the degree to which the villains, though well utilized, are seen almost entirely through the eyes of our protagonists. It’s possible we’ve seen the heart of Casey MacCready, but James Tynion leaves more than enough room for doubt and the mysterious Taisho of the Children of the Sun hasn’t even begun to play yet. He’s an ominous unknown, much to the issue’s benefit.
The issue’s greatest flaw is that one of its climactic moments isn’t entirely clear. When one of the characters makes a major decision in the heat of the moment there simply isn’t enough time to explain and, while it’s clear what’s happening on an emotional level, you may not be certain about the details of why.
It seems possible that this was the result of the way the panel was drawn, which would make it an uncharacteristic misstep from Michael Dialynas. There are a few places where the extremity of emotions distorts the hardened facial detail that Dialynas employs into less than pleasing shapes, but the sense of motion and, especially, the close ups are very strong. Both are essential for this issue.
Josan Gonzalez’s palette feels more restrained than usual, if no less vivid, and the omnipresent clay red gives an appropriate feeling of foreboding.
Though there are a couple of weaker panels, possibly even a significant one, and the prime story will hit or miss depending on the reader, this remains a really solid issue of a great series. Tynion and Dialynas are cashing in the emotional attachment they’ve sown for these characters and you can really feel Tynion stepping fully into his element as plotlines from as far back as the series’ inception come into play. It is not the best issue of this series, but there are only a few that can match it for emotional investment, subtle plot development, or sheer force of tone.