The students of Bay Point Prep continue to splinter rather than work together, stuck on this alien world as they are, and somebody dies.
COULD HAVE USED SOME REPITION
Indie comics are difficult to jump into if you haven’t been reading from the beginning and James Tynion IV’s the Woods #4 is no exception to this rule. Where the issue almost immediately begins falling flat is the fact that there is no recap page as other series (i.e. the Bunker, Chew), are want to have and almost none of the characters address anyone else by name, so as to give readers a gentle reminder as to who is who.
The Woods #4 has two parallel narratives: inside and outside the school. Inside Bay Point Prep pseudo-martial law has been enacted in a heavy-handed reminder to readers that jocks or people interested in sports are the bad guys and nerds are the good guys. Maria – the student body president – heads up the faction of students hiding from the Coach and his goons, but they don’t remain hidden for long and the crux of the issue involves the Coach actually murdering somebody because the dares to disagree.
Yes, that was a spoiler and given the Lord of the Flies-esque situation the characters of the Woods #4 have found themselves in, it’s not the most outrageous turn of events. However, the stereotypical portrayal of the Coach and the random-acts-of-violence nature with which he goes about “protecting” Bay Point Prep reads as so willy-nilly that any emotional impact the aforementioned character death might have had impossible. It feels cheap and wasted where this should have been one of the most important events of the issue.
The Woods #4 continues out of doors in the titular location with Adrian investigating a ziggurat. The voices that have been swirling around in his head are doing little-to-nothing to keep their puppet behaving like a normal human being as he carries out their instructions in locating a specific chamber within the structure. Readers are given the barest peek at the nature of the ziggurat when they discover distinctive Cyrillic letter carved into the wall begging the question – have human being been here before? This is probably the most interesting thing that happens in the entire issue, but Tynion devotes more time with crazy Adrian (who is so close to being a villain in Batman’s rogues gallery it’s a wonder his peers haven’t figured it out yet), instead of delving further into the implications of travel throughout the time and space of human history.
The Woods #4 has a smattering of excellent ideas throughout, though much like the character names they are tossed away in favour of playing on tropes.
THE ART IS ALRIGHT
Michael Dialynas is on art for the Woods #4 and his pencils feel like an indie comic, but not always in the best way possible. Many of the jock characters mentioned above wear the same face, the same way all the female character will, but with freckles or different hair colours tossed in here and there for distinction. The alien creatures look okay, but Dialynas doesn’t offer much by the way of innovative character designs throughout the issue.
The best thing about Dialynas’ art is the way he designs the ziggurat. When panels focus on clear architectural fixtures (the snake sculptures outside, the bricks with carvings in the corridors), they are the most compelling things on the page. These panels sparsely populate the issue however, with more of the focus being on the events inside Bay Point Prep.
Much like the narrative of the Woods #4, the art is alright with a few standout moments here and there.
IF YOU’VE MADE IT THIS FAR
The Woods #4 will be enjoyed by readers who already have context and are fans of the series. It’s not a great jumping on point and it’s not a great issue.