Paper Street Comics
Story: Gentry Smith, Stan Wedeking
Art: Daniel Wichinson (finishes, covers by Gentry Smith)
Horror titles may constitute a large percentage of all indie and small press comics currently being published, but the medium is rarely used to nearly as good effect as its cinematic counterpart. Sure, horror comics can be gruesome, graphic, gory, and numerous other words begging in with G, but they rarely approach that sense of tension, of spine-tingling dread, that the very best horror movies are capable of inflicting upon us. That Lost in the Woods, a 4-part thriller from Paper Street Comics, succeeds to some degree at building such tension is really no mean feat.
The plot begins with teenage outcast Jessica and her mother moving to a new school to escape an abusive father. When Jess finds a tortured and barely alive boy in the nearby woods, her subsequent actions make her the target of English teacher and friendly neighbourhood serial killer Doug Crane. But Jess is no victim, and feeding on her hatred of her father, Crane slowly works on training Jess as his protégé.
Mercifully, the comic itself isn’t quite as amoral as the above synopsis might suggest. Writers Gentry Smith and Stan Wedeking could easily have catered to the gore-porn market, but have thankfully landed the book on the right side of tasteful. Jessica is a morally confused character, prone to manipulation not only from Crane but from opposing classroom factions, yet her actions never bring her to a point beyond redemption. The level of violence is also refreshingly moderate, making Crane’s shift from upstanding citizen to cold-blooded killer all the more chilling.
Argentinean illustrator Daniel Wichinson’s art is suitably immersive, maintaining a cinematic ambiance throughout. Rather than opting for the strong light/dark contrast that is seemingly the standard in monochromic comics, his clean greyscale art and intricately rendered backgrounds grant Lost in the Woods the look of a black and white movie.
It probably goes without saying that as Jessica struggles to escape Mister Crane’s influence Lost in the Woods suffers from several lapses in logic. But horror fans are accustomed to such implausible genre conventions that they’ll likely embrace this series for its tense, deliberate pacing and sympathetic murderer-in-the-making. With a sharp script that finds the right balance between slasher pic thrills and character-driven crisis, this miniseries is definitely worth a look.
I was sent digital copies of the first 3 issues of 4 for review, and would happily have paid for the concluding issue there and then were it not currently unavailable – though the series will be complete (and a trade paperback made available) this summer.
The first 2 issues of Lost in the Woods are available from ComicXpress for $2.50 each (32 pages). For more information visit www.gentrysmith.net.