Through the Woods
As anyone who reads this may have noticed, I have been MIA for a bit now. My apologies for the unannounced hiatus, grad school is currently kicking my butt. This week I’m returning to the regularly scheduled programming with the start of a horror comics binge for which this time of year is truly perfect. Fall has long been my favorite season. Between the beautiful turning of the leaves, the return to cooler weather and the joys of pumpkin spice, good food and family, it’s hard not to love. It took me longer to learn to love being scared or creeped out but there’s no better time for that than Halloween. What better way to remind yourself that you’re alive than the danger and vicarious thrill of a good horror story? This week I’m taking a look at a collection of graphic novel horror stories by Emily Carroll called Through the Woods. Originally published in 2014, the collection of five stories is both written and illustrated by Emily Carroll and all of the stories take place in or near a dark wood that the characters must navigate. It’s a perfect jumping off point for a month of horror!
Through the Woods brings together five stories: Our Neighbor’s House, A Lady’s Hands Are Cold, His Face All Red, My Friend Janna, and The Nesting Place. Many of the stories take place in a Grimm’s fairy tales atmosphere that’s somewhere between ancient and modern, with the constant, dangerous presence of a dark forest that hides any number of dangerous creatures. Each story features a different protagonist and an often creepy (though rarely terrifying) monster which threatens them. The artwork relies on a stark contrast between black and splashes of primary color that makes the darkness that much more prominent. It’s a clever way of illustrating the stories and creating a creepy atmosphere.
In a lot of ways, Through the Woods reminds me of those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark except with a tenth of the fear factor. If you’re looking for truly terrifying, you’re likely to be disappointed with this little collection. Even the wonderful art won’t scratch that itch. But Carroll does a remarkable job of making the stories feel appropriately creepy and ending the stories with ambiguous horror that feels simultaneously Grimm and Lovecraft inspired. Many of themes explored by Carroll are ones that will resonate with fans of both of the former authors. Greed, betrayal, fear of the unknown and the monsters which cannot be understood all feature prominently in the collection. All of this is supported by the stark brushwork style used by Carroll in the illustrations.
Through the Woods is a good collection for creeping yourself out on a dark, stormy night. If you’re used to Clive Barker, Stephen King or even the the No Sleep subreddit, this will be pretty tame fare for you. But the gorgeous artwork and subtle, ambiguous horror of the stories combine for a disturbing atmosphere perfect for this time of year.