Title: The Low, Low Woods.
Series: Hill House Comics #3.
Writer(s): Carmen Maria Machado.
Colourist(s): Tamra Bonvillain.
Letterer(s): Steve Wands.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Release Date: September 29th 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror.
My Overall Rating:
Also in the Hill House Comics series:
Basketful of Heads by Joe Hill.
The Dollhouse Family by Mike Carey.
Daphne Byrne by Laura Marks.
Plunge by Joe Hill.
As part of critically-acclaimed writer Joe Hill’s Hill House Comics line-up over at DC Comics, the next entry belongs to a writer who brings into play her own conception of horror as she rethreads the eerie and odd town tale with a supernatural and creepy history that slowly resurfaces. This time, she attempts to interweave a complex relationship tainted with envy and passion as well as a world that has more to it than what you can see. Writer Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties, In the Dream House) and artist Dani (Lucifer, Tales From The Strips) thus deliver a six-issue story featuring deer creatures, skinless men, and witches as two girls struggle to remember lost memories that hide dark secrets on their town.
What is The Low, Low Woods about? Set in Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, the story follows El and Octavia, two best friends who wake up feeling like they’ve lost their memory of the past few hours. Disturbed by the insecure feeling of losing touch with reality, they continue on with their daily lives at school filled with love interests and self-discovery. Unfortunately, they run into unexpected surprises that will shake them to the core and force them to seek answers to questions on themselves, their relationship, and the mysterious phenomenon occurring in their town. It’s only when chaos engulfs their reality that the stakes sky-rocket and they embark on a journey to save their world from Shudder-to-Think’s monsters.
“I wonder if they wonder why we never listen?”— Carmen Maria Machado
This didn’t quite work well for me. There’s an interesting concept underneath it all but the execution leaves much to be desired. The most fatal flaw lies in the world-building. It is one thing to have your world exist with its own rules, for it to hide secrets and truths underneath common knowledge for various characters, and another to not hint a single bit of information regarding those elements throughout the narrative, never allowing the reader to comprehend the extent of the author’s vision as the story unravels. In this case, the story places the reader in the middle of a mystery and bombards them with absolutely random elements coming from all kinds of directions as they try to grasp where everything and anything is going. Toss in the oddly developed characters, their conflictual lesbian relationship, and the underlying feminist agenda that clearly points at men as the root of all evil, and you got yourself a recipe that turned out to be exactly what I was not hungry for.
Artist Dani offers a very rough and poorly-detailed artistic style for this story that often turned out distracting rather than alluring. Despite an ambitious and diverse cast that received a just as ambitious and diverse character design concept, characters rarely spoke through their body language or facial expressions. A lot of the graphic novel’s forte instead relied on its dialogue rather than on the art itself. There’s something in the artistic vision that also seemed to convey the sense that the harder it is for readers to understand the art, the better the horror. Not true. Colourist Tamra Bonvillain does do a good job in focusing the colour pallet to three or four colours while heavily utilizing shadows to capture the horror elements. This helps the story maintain a certain eerie atmosphere that comes with the premise but, unfortunately, the overall result isn’t as gratifying as you’d hope for it to be.
The Low, Low Woods is an eerie yet incohesive tale pitting readers into a world that lacks boundaries while losing itself in its not-so subliminal feminist reverie.