The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

details
Title: The Low, Low Woods.
Series
: Hill House Comics #3.
Writer(s): Carmen Maria Machado.
Artist(s): Dani.
Colourist(s): Tamra Bonvillain.
Letterer(s): Steve Wands.
PublisherDC Comics.

Format
: Hardcover.
Release Date: September 29th 2020.
Pages: 168.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror.
ISBN13: 9781779504524.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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.

thoughts

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.


EXHIBITA
Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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38 thoughts on “The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

  1. I did not know she wrote graphic novels too. I love a feminist take generally so I can’t complain about that. I read Her Body & Other Parties a couple of years back and had a difficult time with it so I recognise a lot of what you’re saying – I spent a lot of the time feeling like i was grasping at strands of a story I couldn’t quite assemble.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty much it! It’s as if we had to accept, understand, not question anything being told and follow the flow of the story with some kind of promise that everyone will make some sense by the end of it; which, unfortunately, wasn’t that great of a finale to justify the journey! I can’t say that I’m intrigued enough to want to give Her Body and Other Parties a try someday but if the Great Lydia had issues with it, I don’t think I could survive! Thanks for reading! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! I don’t know if I deserve that much credit. Her writing is just very meandering – I think you have to be the type of reader happy to go along for the ride even if it doesn’t ultimately lead anywhere 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Damn men! If only they would all die off, then the world would be a perfect utopia!

    But don’t you worry Lashaan, it will be painless (mostly) and quick (well, kind of) and very humane (because men aren’t really human after all, right?). I’m thinking death by shopping and pedicures….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah that reminds me of the Y: The Last Man comic book series (which I still need to continue and finish). Unfortunately, making men look like the devil’s minions doesn’t help any cause, if you ask me. Maybe someone who has been victim to a man might find these stories somehow empowering but the message behind such motivation is surely not one that will help make a better world for everyone…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh that sucks this didn’t work out. My interest perked up because I didn’t know Machado had written a comic book and I like the town name “Shudder-to-Think.” That’s really cool. Usually I’d add it to my TBR anyway but what you said it’s about doesn’t appeal to me, and I agree on the art. I’m not feeling it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s her first endeavour into the comic book world and it sort of shows; a couple more stories and she’d probably get the grasp of it though. Hahah it is indeed an original name! I’m pretty impressed that my relatively negative review didn’t get you to ONCE AGAIN add something to your exploding TBR! 😛 Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your experiences with Hill House Comics seem very hit or miss so far. It’ll be interesting to see what you think of anything else they put out. I do like the color schemes in this one. The limited colors seem to work well, at least in the sample pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tell me about it. I’d have wished this could’ve gotten at least a passing grade but it was a tough sale with the kind of story it was pushing for. And I agree. The colour scheme for this story is quite good. At least that’s one consistent element! Thanks for reading, Todd! 🙂

      Like

  5. I would hate to lose my memory, even if it’s of the last few hours ahah! Sorry it didn’t work out for you, though I completely understand your point! Pennsylvania definitely sounds like a great setting for a horror tale, but it is definitely not enough to compensate for poor execution and world-building!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha I totally understand. I think it’s something we often take for granted too, the ability to remember things! I don’t want to imagine what a future where we can’t remember the past would be like. Wow. I think it would be the end of the world! Thanks for reading, Juliette! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “their conflictual lesbian relationship, and the underlying feminist agenda that clearly points at men as the root of all evil” That just says it all. It reminds me of the question you asked me the other day regarding my take on writing minority characters. SOmetimes it just doesn’t fit.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Many say they read books to “get away” or to travel to a different land. If you dump an entire saltshaker of salt on your story, the reader will be drowning in it without being able to escape. Weird metaphor that probably doesn’t make sense, but it did to me when I thought of it. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

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