COMIC REVIEW: Into the Woods

Whenever I used to get anthologies I would always feel that it was more likely to be a mixed bag than quality. Then last year we had hits like the Sugar Glider Stories Anthology and Reads and things changed.

I looked forward to getting an anthology, knowing that it was more likely to be good than bad, showcasing the amazing talent that is on show in the British indie scene at the moment. Into The Woods, edited by Stacey Whittle is no exception.

From the moment you look at this book you will see the standard that is on show. The front cover by Andy Bloor shines off the page, with a stunning cover like this it would not look out of place with mainstream comics. Andy Bloor should be credited with creating a book that looks the part: it is stylish and professional.

The stories themselves are a collection of fairy tale like narratives. There are a couple that are weaker than the rest but that is simply because a very high standard has been maintained. Whittle has cleverly put the book together. With a strong story to start (Red Riding Hood) and finish (Amber and the Egg) the anthology, it will leave the reader feeling satisfied. Whittle knows what she is doing and future anthology editors should take note.

The key to this anthology’s success is that most of these short stories are exactly how a small tale should be done: a clever script with good art and structure leading to a twist in the tale. Blood and Sacrifice by art leaps off the page with its heavy blacks complimenting the story. Other standouts nclude Red Riding Hood, Madness From the Sea, Samhain, Black Shoes and Amber and the Egg.

Red Riding Hood by Richard McAuliffe and Sara Dunkerton moves exciting through the story. Dunkerton’s use of light and dark is very effective. As the creative team slowly reveal the wolf, a chill will run down the reader’s spine using techniques such as the wolf’s eyes gleaming white as it is covered in darkness. Whereas Red is beaming in the light. Further the creative team have managed to implement their beats just right making every page turn all the sweeter.

Madness from the Sea by Scott Harrison, Lee Grice and Filip Ronconeis a haunting tale of survival. Page one builds the sense of dead and terror as the panels slowly reveal more. This really engrosses the reader making them want to page turn to find out what is going to happen. This is an essential skill to have in an anthology and it is displayed here.

Samhain by Matthew Gibbs and Alice Duke shows how you can push the boundaries as creators. It knows when to leave certain parts of the story to the reader’s imagination. Duke’s art is beautiful and compliments the story perfectly.

It might have been unfair but as soon as I saw that Black Shoes was written by Daniel Clifford (David Wynne and Ian Sharman) I expected a lot. After not hitting a step wrong in his young career and producing some of the most exciting comics around at the moment with Sugar Glider and Halcyon and Tenderfoot a sense of expectation was here. Many other creators may have felt the pressure after such a hit with Sugar Glider yet Clifford and his co creators here show how talented they are by producing a top-notch story.

It is everything we have come to expect from Clifford with a haunting twist that we have not seen before. The art team must be credited with some fantastic shots such as the disco panel. This is a really impactful wee story. Unfortunately the one place that it does falter slightly is the ending. I always think it is better to leave the reader guessing, allowing them to come up with their own conclusions. It should have therefore finished a page earlier and let this happen instead we are told exactly what comes next. Still, a brilliantly constructed story showing off the talents of the creative team.

Amber and the Egg by Nic Papaconstantinou, Bevis Musson and Filip Roncone has some lovely little touches, as it plays with the comic medium. For example, leaves falling in the gutter and characters appearing out of panels really allows the pages to grow. The story builds nicely, continually reminding us of the egg. The ending is sudden and works so well. This was my favourite ending out of all the stories and therefore again credit must go to Whittle for choosing this story to finish. It is so clever and so unexpected that it takes the reader completely off guard.

However Changeling by Alexi Conman and Conor Boyle is a strange beast. The story works very well with some great use of panel structure.  The changes in the background are particularly emotive. I just felt that with the Clint Eastwood directed film from a couple of years back of the same name I had seen this all already. This would not be a problem usually but the rest of the title feels so fresh this left me feeling slightly flat albeit compelling story. Further The Lang Pack by Lee Robson, Simon Wyatt and Filip Ronconedid not grab me.

So once again like it peers Into The Woods illustrate how much talent there is in the UK at the moment. The standard of recent anthologies is continued here with some stand out performances and some brilliant editing. If you are a fan of fairy tales or anything slightly creepy this is for you.

GS Rating: 4 out of 5
GS Reporter: Luke Halsall

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One comment

  1. Richard McAuliffe /

    Weirdly I thought Changeling was the best thing in the book.
    Each to their own I suppose, thats the joy of anthologies, Not all stories are gonna click with everyone

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