The Woods (Volumes 1-9) by James Tynion IV is a science fiction coming-of-age story that tells a wonderfully bizarre tale across thirty-six issues (four issues per volume). A school in our world gets transported to another planet or dimension, we’re not sure which. We also do not know who is behind this event or what their reasons are. This comic book series is as much an adventure story as it is coming-of-age, and even though adults — teachers and administration — get transported along with the kids, it is a group of high school students who take the lead, venturing away from the seeming safety of the school out into the unknown of The Woods.
At first, the adults try to take charge, and the initial conflict is between adults and students, but as our main group heads out into the woods, escaping from adult supervision, we get to watch over a period of a few years as these teenagers grow into young men and women, battling both real monsters in the Woods and the internal demons of self-doubt, guilt, and other normal teenage emotional concerns. Their loves and hates become life-and-death issues in a hostile world, and one’s brother, who may simply be a jerk back home, has the potential to turn into a dangerous psychopath in this new world, where the smallest teen problems become matters of life-and-death.
The otherworldly — portrayed vividly by the art — is seen in the wide range of monsters and strange beings throughout the course of the series. But there are also other human beings that are there before them. Why are they there? How did they arrive before our current group? What is their society like? Why do they dress the way they do? Which beasts and creatures have they trained, and which creatures remain wild and dangerous? And what secrets are they keeping from our newly transported group from the school? Why won’t they speak of certain matters, especially about other human beings who have not joined their community, those who have remained out in the woods? All these mysteries are answered in this adventure on a grand scale.
This series, winner of a 2017 GLAAD award, deals with sexuality and is not for an audience not ready for those issues; however, I like the way it deals with both hetero- and homo-sexual love interests, showing both as natural. Some of the kids are very forward with their sexuality, and others are afraid of letting their feelings for others emerge. In other words, it portrays these themes with realism, and it’s hard not to feel empathy for the everyday struggles these teens deal with as they try to figure out what love means to them, particularly when trying to stay alive seems to have more immediacy.
I am so glad that I didn’t start reading this series until it was complete, because I would have been extremely frustrated with all the cliff-hangers; however, this is a testament to how good the storytelling is. I simply could not stop turning pages, and I read it in only a few sittings in less than forty-eight hours. I have rarely done that with a comic book series, so obviously I recommend highly The Woods.