Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss The Woods 20 and Paper Girls 5.
The Woods 20
Spencer: They say a strong introduction is the most important part of any story. That first sentence or image has the ability to either immediately capture or immediately lose a reader’s interest, determining whether or not they even finish the story. I’ve never thought myself particularly great at introductions, but the same can’t be said for James Tynion IV, Michael Dialynas, and Josan Gonzalez, who open The Woods 20 with one of the most striking and memorable pages I’ve seen in quite a long time:
I dare anyone to not keep reading the issue after opening to that. I haven’t been talking up Dialynas’ art and Gonzalez’s colors enough in these pieces lately; they’re always fantastic, but this month they’re straight-up rock stars, masterfully bringing to life not only the typical weirdness of The Woods‘ alien moon, but the new level of weirdness that is Isaac’s fully awakened abilities. This first page especially is a visual treat — that green is sickly and striking all at the same time, and I can see a serious Kirby influence in places — but equally impressive is how Dialynas and Gonzalez use it to visualize the central conflict of this issue (Isaac, Adrian’s “spirit,” and Taisho’s alien goon all trying to wrestle control of Isaac’s mind and powers) all in one image. I literally cannot stop gushing about this page.
That page alone would be more than enough spectacle for one issue, but Dialynas and Gonzalez immediately follow it up with this:
This, too, is unlike anything this creative team’s done on The Woods before. The use of shadow, its contrast with the green, the way Dialynas shows the pain this transformation is putting Isaac through, it’s all absolutely jaw-dropping. The issue next transitions from horror to straight-up action, giving us an Isaac who sparks electricity as he floats over the gym, swats aside arrows effortlessly, and blows Ben through a wall in yet another scene-stealing show of force.
Retcon Punch guidelines discourage us from posting too many images just to gawk at the art, but I’m having a hard time with this issue, not only because the art is so good, but because it’s so different from what we’ve seen before. The scene above is some serious Dragonball Z level crap (Casey even refers to Isaac as having gone “full Goku” at one point), and I’m just so psyched to see it. As the conclusion to a storyline, The Woods 20 isn’t a great jumping-on issue, but to hell with that — I recommend this issue to every single one of our readers. Even if you can’t follow the story, the art is more than worth the price of admission.
That said, the story is impressive too. Tynion brings almost every main character’s storyline to a head (I’d still like to see more Sanami, but that’s a very small criticism) — some conclusions are obvious, others are surprising, but all are satisfying. More impressive is the way Tynion begins to tie The Woods‘ mythology into its core themes. A running theme of this series has always been the way adults attempt to mold and influence kids into their own image, be it metaphorical or literal (as in the case of Coach Carson, Taisho, Ben’s father, or Adrian’s mother), and now we can see this motivation is even behind Bay Point’s abduction in the first place.
For the first time, I’m just as excited to explore The Woods‘ mythology as I am its characters. Man is this issue firing on all cylinders. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Paper Girls 5
Ryan M.: With Paper Girls 5, Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang close the first arc of the series. I love this story, but I have no idea what is happening. To clarify, I don’t have any understanding of the underlying context of the Generational war that puts the employees of the Cleveland Preserver in the cross-fire, or how putting a town full of people into pink stasis helps fight that battle. Like the best of genre storytelling, what matters is not revelations afforded by exposition, but empathy inspired by these characters. There is an emotional truth to the way this story is playing out that is far more engaging to me than an explanation of the dragons would be.
The three panels above are loaded with storytelling. Each of the three characters gets a moment to let us know where they are emotionally. Erin’s denial of her friendship with the other girls reinforces the words of her nightmare Ronald Reagan a few issues ago. Naldo is in battlemode, reacting to and relaying enemy activity. I’m still not quite sure what “break curfew” means, but Chiang’s art leaves little to wonder about Heck’s state of mind. He knows that he is going to risk his life and his stricken face on this panel only foreshadows his doomed fate. The ensuing argument between Heck and Naldo barely brooks understanding, but the established emotional weight of the conversation gives the text meaning.
The issue does contain some explicit answers to questions raised in the series run. Most significantly, we see that Grand Father has stored all of the missing citizens of Stony Stream in large jars in a room off his kitchen. Chiang maintains a depth to these figures. Each one tells a bit of a story, including Tony and Gabrielle, unchanged from the moment they were taken from the football field. This new information fits perfectly in with what we’ve seen from thus far, but Vaughan keeps the moment brief and full of impact before returning to the girls that we care about.
Speaking of those titular Paper Girls, by the end of the issue most of them have traveled to the future. It’s not clear exactly where or when they have gone, but it’s far enough in the future that Erin doesn’t perm her hair anymore and iPods exist. Taking the gang out of 1988 and into some version of the future is a bold choice. Given the quality of the storytelling in this series, I am psyched to see how it all plays out, even if I am only ever 50% sure what’s happening.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?