**I received a free electronic copy of this book from DC Comics through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Due to copyright restrictions, please see the purchase links for a look at the cover and a preview of the inside. **
Trigger Warning: This book contains instances of sexual assault and abuse.
Bizarre happenings are the norm in Shudder-to-Think. Enter El and Vee: two best friends just trying to navigate high school and decide what they want to do with their lives. One fateful night, the two go see a movie and seemly wake up in their seats when it’s over, having absolutely no idea what happened the last few hours. El and Vee will stop at nothing to discover what is behind the missing memories, and the dark secrets that unfold are much worse than either of them ever expected… and they are not about to let them stay buried.
This is the first title I have read from the Hill House Comics line under the DC Black Label. For those who do not know, the DC Black Label is an imprint of DC Comics that was formerly known as Vertigo Comics or DC Vertigo. They published blockbuster titles such as The Sandman, Fables, and John Constantine, Hellblazer. This label publishes exclusively mature content, so if you see a Batman comic with a DC Black Label logo, it is not the right read for your kiddo.
Hill House Comics is the imprint of Joe Hill, the writer of many novels and comics, and he just so happens to be the writer of one of my favorite comic series of all time: Locke & Key. Due to this, I had a certain expectation of what to expect from this line, and boy, did this title deliver from art to narrative.
Sketchy thin lines form details instead of harsh ones and lend themselves well to the narrative. The style reminds me of nightmares I’ve had when I can’t quite see all the details, but still somehow get a full picture of what I’m seeing. This makes it more terrifying and it easier to imagine characters as people you know. Which can be both good and bad. It is more relatable if some characters could be people you know, but in a narrative like this, you don't want to know most of them.
I am glad I was able to read the trade version of The Low, Low Woods because I would have been clamoring for each issue. Every issue relies on the wonderful crescendo of classic story structure, leaving you craving the next chapter. What I really appreciate about the portrayal of El and Vee is the narrative style. The issues trade off who is narrating, and Vee’s narration really stuck with me.
Vee is a teenager but has had to grow up fast due to the hardships of living in Shudder-to-Think. The way she speaks is self-aware and entertaining for the adult audience this label is geared toward without sounding out of place for a teenager. She makes parallels between her life and The Awakening by Kate Chopin. If you have not read the novel, or it’s been a while (like it was for me) you can easily see the correlations in context. My English major brain was extremely excited about this and I vividly remember having to read the novel for my American literature course. Vee doesn't talk down to the reader in regard to this literature and she is clearly trying to navigate her life using classic literature to help her make sense of her teenage feelings and surroundings.
One of the major themes of this title is agency. The women in the town have it taken away from them when they experience their lapses in memory. I think this is why it can also be especially triggering. To be honest, it was slightly for me. One of the questions in my mind while reading was, “If you had your agency taken away from you, would you want to even remember what happened?” The Low, Low Woods gives you an honest glimpse at both answers to this question.
This title is truly terrifying. It’s not the skinless men, or weird half-animal women in the woods, it’s the lengths of depravity people will go to take advantage of others. But there is also a light in the darkness, and that is friendship.
For fans of: body horror, small-town dramas, and strong female characters
This book in 1 GIF:
The Low, Low Woods
Writer: Carmen Maria Machado
Published by: Hill House Comics
Publish date: September 29, 2020
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