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‘The Woods: Volume 5’ - Trade Paperback Review

What would you and your high school classmates do if you, and your school building, were suddenly transported to an unknown world? What would you do if you were surrounded by a wilderness filled with terrifyingly grotesque creatures that want to devour your flesh?

These were the questions posed to students and faculty when Bay Point Preparatory High School had this happen to them over a year ago. Writer James Tynion IV and artist Michael Dialynas created the fifth volume in The Woods series, titled "The Horde." This trade paperback collects issues 17 through 20, and its cover page gives the reader a small glimpse into the cryptic world about to be entered.

The cover depicts good and evil through a variation of separate images. In the forefront, you see a frightened teenager, wide-eyed with pale skin, gripped by a masked fiend. The monster’s identity might be cloaked, but its clear intentions are based solely on the devilish grin that will make you shudder. Above these two characters, soldiers are in line as if awaiting instructions, while a large ship seems to represent some kind of military fleet. Lastly, we see a person holding a sword across the top of the page. On top of this sword, we see five comrades struggling to stay on the blade, while a spiked, can’t-be-friendly beast creeps closer toward them.

And in the opening pages, the reader sees how unfriendly these things can be. Hunched, hairy hellions crawl over mutilated bodies, eating them as blood stains their furry mouths. If there’s an accurate description, it would be to imagine a very large rabbit has been turned into a hybrid, mixed with a spider. Their dark blue fur would probably make them difficult to see in the middle of the night, except for the big, bright neon-yellow eyes bursting from the pages.

Colorist Josan Gonzalez fills the pages with an assortment of vivid colors highlighting the present, while moments from the past are muted without any bold features. This contrast provides easy transitions for Tynion as he guides his readers back in time, explaining the lives of the main characters, which helps to identify their new roles on this new planet as they struggle to survive. The Woods develops a simple premise of “starting over” within a complex and powerful ecosystem meant to push the boundaries of right and wrong. This four-part series follows the continued struggles of our high schoolers as they are asked to submit to a warring faction, without any indication that submission will prevent their deaths.

This BOOM! Studios series can be read by single issues or collected editions, and the reader will want to catch up on these issues to connect the story completely together. Tynion’s ability to provide excellent character backstories this far into the series makes the reader want to find out more. Another reason to go back to the beginning will be to see the growth from what a character, like Karen, used to be and how she has transformed into the hero, with major sword skills.

Karen, seemingly like several other characters, has changed to adapt to her new surroundings. This series introduces characters who hope to live up to their own expectations, yet are able to admit, “I’m not happy.” The world created by Tynion and Dialynas is scary and doesn’t present much hope for the characters, and that’s when heroes emerge and attempt to change the hierarchy that views the high school, or at least those deemed unfit to survive, as expendable.

The Woods: Volume 5 - The Horde is available in print and digital form.

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