Through the Woods
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Through the Woods is series of graphic tales collected in a beautiful, textural book. Like Wytches it explores the mythology of the woods and the various stories connected with the woods.
First of all, if you aren’t already following Emily Carroll’s website, then please go sign up now. If you have some time, read a webcomic or two. Out of Skin is one of my favorites. Don’t worry. I will wait.
Back? Okay. Through the Woods is Carroll’s first book. It consists of five lushly illustrated stories and an introduction and conclusion (also illustrated). Our Neighbor’s House unnerved me the most because while nothing was explicitly shown, it was all hinted at in a delicately frightful way. A Lady’s Hands are Cold is the most beautiful story with some of the most frightening imagery. Think Marie Antoinette meets horror. The stories themselves seem straight-forward and even simple, and it’s this seeming simplicity that allows the art, lettering, and writing to work so well together. This simplicity is deceptive because Through the Woods is complicated and unsettling. There is no catharsis in the final panel of these stories.
The art of Through the Woods manages to be delicate, whimsical, and terrifying all at once.
You may have noticed while checking out Carroll’s site that she uses the scroll-down capabilities of internet viewing to maximum effect. This masterful use of medium is no different in the book format. She utilizes more traditional graphic storytelling via panels interspersed with full pages of twisting and turning text and art. Setting, characters, and spacing are often used in place of the more traditional panel divisions.
In fact, let’s talk about space. Space is important to art. Not only does space convey certain meanings, but it can also be used to orient the eye. Carroll knows exactly how to use space in this way. At times the pages are open, creating a sense of vastness and reminding the reader of our human frailty. Other times, space is tight and constrained creating an entirely different sense of danger and terror – the kind that makes anxious people such as myself choke up.
Both NPR and 3 Chicks described Through the Woods as poetry. And they are exactly right. It is graphic and textual poetry. Go buy the book right now. Just do it. Read it several times and just try to find the right words to describe it. You won’t regret it.