THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll

This article is part three of a 100-part series centered on reading and reviewing NPR’s 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels. For part one of the series, read our review of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. For part two, read our review of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga.

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and it’s the perfect time to tackle the next entry in our series on NPR’s list of the 100 greatest comics and graphic novels of all time: Emily Carroll’s haunting Through the Woods.

Carroll, whose website showcases a wide swathe of her unsettling work, merges fairy tales and horror better than anyone since the Brothers Grimm, and that talent is on full display in Through the Woods. This book is a selection of short stories, very much in the style of classic fairy tales, but with the unsettling elements cranked up to 11. Its art is deceptively simple, almost childlike, as befits the fairy tale nature of the stories being told, and is used to great effect by Carroll.

Terror in Simplicity

This book was an unexpected delight, successfully blending powerful storytelling with the author’s unique artistic style to create a singular vision.

These are legitimately frightening tales, fully realized thanks to both the stories being told and the artwork representing them. Through the Woods gives the superficial appearance of simplicity while skillfully, mesmerizingly blending text and imagery to tell its tales in a more engaging way.

The stories themselves run the gamut from a tale of fratricide to one where monstrous red worms are attempting to find a new host (they make people’s teeth rattle around in their mouths like little tic tacs, something I don’t care for at all). Each of them is chilling in its own unique way and stayed with me long after I had finished the book.

Carroll’s method of infusing the language of her story with her artwork provides a sense of narrative cohesion, effortlessly leading readers from panel to panel and helping them lose themselves in the unease of the tale at hand. When the words literally flow from page to page and drip out of the panel, the text made to look scrawled in rather than typed, it ups the weirdness and the wrongness in an exciting and enticing way.

Final Verdict

While Through the Woods may seem made-for-children at a glance, the stories here are much darker and deeper than you’d usually find on a middle schooler’s bookshelf. While you might want to keep this out of your kid’s hands (unless they’re really cool), adults will find plenty to love in the magic and madness of this collection.

This is a Must-Read Modern Spooky Classic, and definitely one we would highly recommend to anyone looking to add thrills and chills to their holiday reading list.

You can purchase a copy of Through the Woods here.

If you’re interested in the other books we’re geeking out over, check out Geek Guy Buys: Read!