You might remember me mentioning Into the Woods before. Its the small press anthology put together by Stacey Whittle.
With Stace’s blessing I put the call out to some of the guys who are good enough to review the prog for this site and asked if they’d be interested in doing a review with one provision – Honest reviews only. No special favours due to any of the people involved.
Well we definitely got that 😉
I’ll be posting another one of these in a week or so, but first up is M.Allen. More info on this anthology including how to get hold of a copy HERE –
Into The Woods – Anthology
Review by M.Allen
Although fairly varied in setting, most of the nine stories follow a similar (traditional fairytale) theme of ‘something is going to die’. As the anthology is all in black & white, this gets reinforced visually and too many comics end up feeling like the one you’ve just read. I feel the “fantastically varied collection” descriptor in the blurb was pushing things a bit.
The artwork is decent throughout – none of the comics stand out way ahead of the rest, but none suffer from particularly poor artwork either. Those with the strongest panels seem to lack the consistency that we might expect.
Other than the similarities between them (a fault of the anthology composition, not the individual stories) the most common problem with the scripts was that too little was explained or that the ending lacked proper closure. Making the reader’s imagination do the work doesn’t turn out nearly as well as writers often hope – in such a short story there’s usually too little for the reader to build on.
Into the Woods just lacks that one stand-out story to convince you that you’ve picked up something unique. Still, it’s nine stories from various creators – which makes it an interesting read in the very least.
It’s worth mentioning that there are a couple of comics in here that could have been slipped into 2000AD as a once-and-done and not seemed out of place.
RED RIDING HOOD:
There’s nothing too special about the story, for the most part it follows the traditional tale, but it does make a good opener for the anthology. Something easy and familiar to break you in, and an ending to get you in the right frame of mind for some of the upcoming comics.
The artwork is fair as well. The more dynamic posing can seem off and there’s an odd tendency to draw panels at 30-degree angles – which serves no purpose – but the shading is good and there’s an excellent ‘morning light through the trees’ effect to enjoy.
A TIME FOR CHANGE:
Unfortunately any opening momentum from the previous story is lost here, with a comic that I can only sum up as: quaint at best.
The artwork holds well enough, but with a slow paced story it’s hard to see just how far its potential stretches. Too many panels were largely identical to the one before it.
THE MADNESS OF THE SEA:
Back to the theme of death (and madness) with the next story, which could have done with a bit more content and explanation. I felt like we only got to see the very surface of what was really going on, when the interesting stuff was still much further down.
Good weather effects on the artwork and some well chosen ‘camera angles’ for the panels made this good to look at, but the shame is that the latter part of the story didn’t quite reach the standards set at the start.
The story seems to be constructed by pulling odd scenes together and pretending some sort of reason follows through. There are a number of points that leave you wondering ‘why?’, but at least it delivered the goods and had a solid ending. A good ending can make all the difference – especially on stories so short – making this enjoyable despite any shortcomings.
The artwork kept things running well enough to enjoy it all the way through. There were a couple of details that fell below par, but nothing glaring. The page layouts were also decorated with sprite creatures that mimicked or added to the panels they surrounded – a nice touch for a short fairytale piece.
THE LANG PACK:
The ending lost me, with no explanation (or even a hint) of what was actually going on – which kind of ruined the build-up. It started strong, a good set up for what could have been a fairly cruel and twisted ending, and the artwork was certainly up to the task (a little rough in places but overall a haunting style that set the scenes well), but you end up not knowing what revelation you’re supposed to be chilled by.
BLOOD AND SACRIFICE:
Some panels in this one are spot on, notably the opener which screams Sin City in its style, but the quality does dip in places. Sometimes the artwork isn’t up to standards, and sometimes it’s the sequencing or layout that falls behind. The comic suffers because of it.
When the panels are good though, they are good, and if one were to pick out a handful of standout panels from across the anthology Blood and Sacrifice would probably provide half of them.
This was my favourite of the anthology, with a story that was altogether much more subtle, and much weirder than any of the others.
In places the artwork seemed sparse, but the quality was good on what there was – plenty of detail and expression.
The only issue is that the ending came a little soon. It either needed a final panel to wrap things up, a scene of the aftermath as it were, or a whole extra page dedicated to even greater weirdness (the latter would have left this one quite at home in 2000AD).
A cool Cinderella art piece slips in between the two stories here. It’s pretty cool work and manages to add some things that would otherwise be missing from the anthology.
THE BLACK SHOES:
The artwork is so similar to a couple awful ‘Graphix’ things I remember reading when I was twelve that I couldn’t help but feel patronised about the whole thing – both by script and artwork. Still, it’s probably only 20% biased when I say that this was the overall worst comic in the anthology.
Amber and the Egg (below) at least has the artwork going for it (which is pretty much the same review I give to anything Dan Abnett has written lately), and A Time for Change is at least trying to make a point or something. This just lacks emotion – I simply struggled to care.
AMBER AND THE EGG:
The only story of the lot that went for the magic and unicorns approach to fairy tales. Unfortunately this only highlights how little substance there is to the story making for a disappointing end to the anthology.
There’s nothing wrong with a happy ending, but this was just idyllic perfection in every aspect of the character’s life. No conflict, no struggle, no challenge or danger – a very dull read.
The artwork has a lot of charm to it. Bold linework without shading keeps things clear and simple, and there’s a lot more detail in places than you might initially expect.