Edgar Allan Poe lives! I read Through the Woods by Emily Carroll and could not help but think of the great poet. From her first story, readers will get the unmistakable feeling of a descent into madness by the characters that haunt this debut graphic novel fated for awards.
The book begins with a scary introduction, then spirals readers through five increasingly macabre stories, and finally spits one out with a freaky conclusion. Readers open the book to face black cardboard feeling paper and then the scene opens with bare limbs in a snow filled night with a red moon.
Our heroine leaves blue indentions in the snow as she walks the lonely stretch of woods. The clouds are wispy red reflecting off the moon and she walks cloaked in a blustery blue. Through winter pines dripping from the cold, she continues on her solitary journey until the pages become increasingly black.
Next page and one faces a blood red-filled page on the left with an open book on the right. The book holds one ribbon of red, just like the color on the opposite page, signifying a bookmark with a forked looking tongue. Above the book are the words “An Introduction” written by hand. There are no computer generated fonts in this comic.
A child reads in complete darkness with only the desk lamp attached to the giant headboard lighting the bed. The child can be male or female, it is for the reader to choose, but the green comforter betrays a gender with little pink, purple and yellow hearts. As she reads, she begins to wonder what is beyond the stark light. Will something be out there to grab her when she reaches to turn it off?
“Our Neighbor’s House” is the first story set in the early 20th Century. The three sisters, varying in age from child to teenager, are left in a farm house starving as their father hunts in the woods. He has left them instructions to walk to the neighbor’s house if he does not return.
The tween tells the story as they try to entertain themselves with games at first. The next day, they start to clean the house made of gray wooden floors, walls and stairs. On the third day they all lay around in a funk. “That evening, the sun set bloodred in a white sky. And when I saw it…I knew our father was dead,” stated the middle sister.
Remember reading Eleonora, The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, Annabel Lee and The Pit and the Pendulum (just to name a few of Poe's works) and contemplating your own mortality? I wish I could be there as you finish this book, just to see your expression.