Tynion’s skill and creativity are on full display in his first foray into creator-owned comics, but missteps in the artwork of Michael Dialynas do the story a disservice.
James Tynion IV has made quite a name for himself at DC Comics, working in that most prestigious corner of the DCU: that of the Batman. Through his work on Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws and the Batman back-up features – as well as contributing to DC’s weekly series, Batman Eternal – he has proved himself very capable of honouring and enriching the existing Bat-mythos and endeared himself to fans of the Dark Knight.
But there is a story he wants to tell that exists beyond the Gotham city limits. Far beyond.
The Woods marks Tynion’s first foray into the world of creator-owned comics – a story about a small-town high school that is unexpectedly teleported to a moon in the far reaches of space, along with the teachers, staff and hundreds of students.
As flying monsters begin a vicious attack and everyone scrambles for safety, a small group of students band together to discover how and why they were brought thousands of light-years across the universe, starting with a plan to explore the mysterious woods that surround the school’s new location.
As with any first issue, there is a lot to establish. However, Tynion doesn’t fall into the trap of setting up too much in the way of plot points. Instead, the bulk of the issue is devoted to brief (but telling) introductions to the ragtag group of students.
He pulls from a number of established stereotypes – the intelligent misanthrope, the gentle giant, the renegade troublemaker – but with every reinforcement of those tropes he sows a seed of doubt. Is the knife-carrying renegade as tough as he boasts? What does the “big guy”‘s silence hide? Does the intelligent ringleader have an ulterior motive for the expedition to the woods?
These questions (and many others) whirl around in the aftermath of reading this issue, which is the highest compliment I can give to Tynion’s writing. Unfortunately, the questions posed by the artwork of Michael Dialynas are more troubling.
Why, for instance, does a door which opens into a room in one frame suddenly flip its hinges and open into the hallway in the next? And when Adrian is trying to identify the mythical stone that he sees through the window, why doesn’t his face consistently convey that investigative process? It is frustrating as a reader to delve so deeply into a book only to be brought out of that world by incongruous visual storytelling.
There are, however, some strong points to the visuals. The colours, provided by Josan Gonzalez, are of particular note; the varying hues and shades of purple, blue and orange are incredibly alienating, taking familiar natural elements such as ground and sky and forest and making them all feel disturbingly unnatural. Even without the immediate danger posed by the monsters, the shift in colour palette from the scenes on Earth builds the book’s sense of threat and danger just as effectively as the writing.
Tynion has succeeded in whipping up intrigue, conflict and a flurry of vital questions, all of which are born out of a desire to be immersed in the action. There is danger and joy and chaos woven into every scene, and the influence of both science fiction and horror are palpable.
However, Dialynas’s visual missteps, as small as they may be, are a barrier to fully engaging with the material. It’s a disappointing gap in an otherwise entertaining and engaging book.
James Tynion IV (W), Michael Dialynas (A), Josan Gonzalez (C) • BOOM! Studios, $3.99. May 7, 2014.