Written and illustrated by Emily Carroll
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
I honestly didn’t go looking for this book; it kind of stumbled across my path. I was at work one day, an amazing independent bookstore, labeling new stock when I saw a new graphic novel and, as always, flipped through it. This time I recognized the art style as one of a short web comic I fell in love with while Stumbling one day. Needless to say I bought it immediately, and read it soon after.
This book is written and drawn by Emily Carroll and has 5 stories in all, “Our Neighbor’s House,” “A Lady’s Hands are Cold,” “His Face All Red,” “My Friend Janna,” and “The Nesting Place.” They are not really interconnected at all but I would still recommend reading the book in order; I feel it flows well and naturally.
The writing in this book is fantastic. Each story is unique and different but you feel like they belong in a collection together. Also I feel her choice of genre was exceptional. Emily Carroll is a great writer of horror and I honestly would love to read a novel or short story written by her in that genre. Each story is creepy and terrifying at a mental level, the twist/reveal/end of each story sending a shiver down my spine.
Along with her fantastic writing she pairs an art style that, while being cartoony and absurd, lends a helping hand in making the story even creepier. They way she draws her characters allows her to make drastic physical changes (i.e. exaggerated lengths of arms or facial expressions) very easily and effectively. The coloring and costume of her characters and scenes also helps me believe that these would be stories told in small villages a hundred or more years ago, which lends credence to their sophisticated style of horror. I feel like Emily Carroll would be right at home with Shelley and Stoker.
My favorite story in this collection was “His Face All Red”. This is the story of man and his brother hunting a beast in the woods, and seeing who returns. The ending to this story is fantastic and made me put the book down for a second and catch my breath to think about what I had just read and seen. This is also the story I saw online years ago that made me remember Carroll’s book and buy it.
I disliked “The Nesting Place,” unfortunately. I didn’t care for story very much and I felt like the art had devolved into something from a more Peanuts- and less Gothic horror-style comic book. It was still good as comics go, but not so good compared to the rest of the book.
Overall I have to give Through the Woods a 5/5. The art and writing are fairly solid throughout and the book as a whole is a really fun and enjoyable read. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for more works by this talented artist.