by Emily Carroll; McElderry Books
Through The Woods might be one of the most interesting comics I've read recently. It has a unique aesthetic that presents a wonderful command of the page. This is a comic that is just filled with great comics choices that carefully control the readers mood, attention, focus, and timing to tell these yawning, looming stories full of dread and emotional impact. If you are the kind of person who cares about technically well made and interesting comics, Through The Woods is must read material.
Through The Woods is also a comic that I am not really sure how to write about. So much of what makes it such an incredible experience has to do with how its stories work as complete machines. The way pacing and recurrent elements and colour work together to create the emotional effects in the comic is really something that has to be surveyed all at once to really grok. But, Through The Woods is also full of some really commanding small choices that lend themselves to my normal analysis, and because I think this comic is too good to not at least try to pick apart, I'm going to try to give a preview of why this comic is so bonkers good. But you know, this is should be taken as like, an appetizer of a full course comics meal.
There will be *SPOILERS* below. So you really ought to just go read it.
This is the opening page of one of the stories in Through The Woods and it serves as a flawless introduction to the characters of the story. The hand written lettering gives everything an intimate, journally vibe that helps give everything a homesteader feel and really solidifies the narrator as a fairly reliable young woman. But for me, the flourish of this page is the way panel size is used to introduce the three sisters. From oldest to youngest the panels become shorter in height which immediate gives the reader the feeling of their ages and the relationship between the characters. It's a really simple choice that is just beautifully effective at delivering the needed story information. It's just an example of the wonderful attention to panel construction and detail that Through The Woods delivers.
In the above selection the use of space, blue and red makes for an amazing, evocative sequence. The huge blue page on the left is calm, yet menacing in it's proportions, almost overwhelming. The next page enters on the same calm blue, but is broken by these red flashes of violence in panels that tear out the very layout of the page before returning to the serene, almost distant blue with its calmly staring face and single lock of hair askew. It's a great sequence that manages to capture this drawn out, schizophrenic quality to the events... the emotional state of the character and how she goes from this contained, pent up dread into this flurry of violence. It's just a masterful use of storytelling events to create this warped feeling bit of story. It's great.
Another great aspect of Through The Woods is just how planned the stories are, and the way parallel imagery is used to really hammer home key story moments. The above selections more or less bookend one of the stories in the anthology. The page on the left occurs early in the story and portrays the "good" times, when the woman is enjoying the calm blue garden in the golden light of day. Her red finery makes her the focus and gives the page a leisurely feeling to it. The page on the right occurs in the "evil" time and depicts the panicking woman fleeing her home in the black of the night. Now the garden is a raging red, appearing a nightmare bonfire that the woman's yellow dress belnds into. This helps make the woman's dress blend in and makes her black, terrified eyes the focus of the page and helps speed the time the reader takes to blast through the page with the fleeing woman. It is a horrifying page of comics all on its own, but when contrasted with the earlier, happier page it appears all the darker for it. It's great comics.
And all of this is just the smallest portion of the cool comics at work in Through The Woods, glanced at and taken out of story context. If I haven't managed to convince you before, then let me try again: Through The Woods is a comic you absolutely need to track down. It's a force of comics.
Post by Michael Bround
So I Read Through The Woods