Pros: The main plot is very compelling with enough action and mystery to keep readers entertained while still leaving more for the next volume. It is also an interesting examination of human beings and how they would react in some of the worst situations imaginable. The art is also beautifully unique in a way that works perfectly for this story.
Cons: The book makes a few logical leaps in order to get the story going.
Overall: This is a psychological examination of human emotions disguised as a fun, adventure book. It digs into what makes people tick and how they would react when pushed to their limits while also telling a fantastic mystery about people trapped on a foreign planet. This mixture works well and makes for a story that everyone should be able to enjoy, especially those who like sci-fi, horror, and mystery.
The Woods Vol. 1: The Arrow is a compelling and enjoyable first entry into what is, so far, a very interesting universe. The Woods is a sometimes dark, sometimes funny, look at the human condition which is simultaneously wrapped in a sci-fi mystery. The blend of genres allows for author James Tynion IV to do some great work. Though there are a few odd points near the middle of the story, there are enough positives here to entertain readers while also hyping up the next volume in the series.
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The story here begins when an American high school is mysteriously transported to the moon of a distant world. Why and how this happened is currently unknown and is not revealed through the course of this book. Instead, the book details the exploits of two different groups from the school as they try to figure out what is going on in the new world around them.
The first story, and the one that seems to be the main one, follows six students from the high school as they attempt to explore the planet and find a solution to their predicament. This story is fantastic overall. It features otherworldly monsters, deadly insects, near death experiences, and even some human conflict. It has enough action in it to entertain readers of this book and enough mystery and intrigue in it to get readers excited for the next book. Personally, this was my favorite part of the book and the part which really compels me to continue reading the rest of this series.
This part of the story is also the portion which seems to focus on world building and providing the answers to the mysterious circumstances of the book. Tynion seems to be going for a slow burn with revealing the mysteries of this universe since both the main characters and the readers know almost nothing about what is going on. However, what little we do know makes for a compelling read. It appears the school was teleported here for a reason and that they were not the first ones to be teleported here. Some of these plot points are extremely interesting and make for a fantastic mystery to watch unravel.
The other half of the story follows the rest of the school trying to maintain order and safety for the student and teacher populations. From here, we see the students rebel against the teachers, only to have the teachers establish an authoritarian rule under the guise of “safety.” Like The Walking Dead or Mad Max, this portion of the story shows how heroes and villains can rise out of the deepest depths of human desperation. It is an interesting narrative that highlights the human condition and looks at how quickly society can crumble when taken out of its natural environment.
However, parts of this story progress in a way that seem illogical and hurried, most of which involve the characters quickly losing sanity despite only being on this planet for a short period of time. For example, the gym teacher goes from a background character to a sadistic leader in a few pages. He cages rebellious students, orders one girl to be beaten, and then kills the school principal. While this rapid character development leads to the great examination of the human condition which was discussed earlier, it still feels jarring. This rapid change occurs in a few characters around the midpoint of the book and make reading that portion less enjoyable. However, these changes are mostly confined to this portion of the book and do not really affect the rest of the reading experience.
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Tasked with meshing the modern day classroom with an undiscovered alien world, artist Michael Dialynas rises to the challenge and delivers a solid product. Though not the highest quality art out there, this book looks great and does exactly what it needs to do. The alien planet looks bizarre, with a plethora of creatively designed flora and fauna. Overall, this makes for a book that looks good while also helping to enhance the story.
In particular, the colorist, Josan Gonzalez, deserves some special recognition for how great the colors are throughout this collection. Intense shades of purples, greens, and oranges are not exactly standard in many comic book but are vividly displayed throughout this book. It makes the book unique and also helps to instantly distinguish the world they are on as alien and weird. It is a solid tactic that works perfectly and really compliments the artwork in this series.
This comic is set in its own unique continuity, independent from any other work. This means that this book is the only book necessary in order to begin reading this series.
The story here is continued in The Woods Vol. 2: The Swarm