You might remember Deep in the Woods from it’s modest Kickstarter campaign late last year, of which I’m glad I was a backer. One of the things I’m really interested in seeing in comics is experimentation with format, so when 2D Cloud put out a broadsheet newsprint comic by Noah van Sciver and Nic Breutzman, I was sold. Not only have Raine Hogan and crew done a really nice job of printing the comic, it was delivered in a timely fashion pretty much around the date it was promised, which is a major checkpoint for any Kickstarter. Now available to all for $6 on the 2D Cloud site, the only question that remains is: is it worth getting?
Both van Sciver’s and Breutzman’s strips share similarities: a female, teenage protagonist at the queer cusp of womanhood, a figurative and literal woodland setting to navigate, and a sense of the surreal or other-worldyness. Van Sciver’s ‘The Cow’s Head’ follows a traditionally dark fairytale route with the odd diversion: the kind-hearted Robin loves her caring but alcoholic father, but is increasingly fearful of her mean stepmother’s conniving ways, pre-empting any dastardly actions by running off into the woods.
Van Sciver has fun poking at tropes a little, most noticably with the benevolent magical benefactor: here a floating cow’s head, who bestows Robin with riches in exchange for a good turn. The moral here is, as ever, not for the golden girl, but the horrible folk around her. The bigger layout is used to great effect in illustrating the sinister, reaching blackness of shadows, trees and the mind, and drowning Robin in inky night.
Breutzman’s ‘The Mayfly’ is more smoky and hazy, more Alice in Wonderland weird and dark- weighting the silly with ominous undertones. Even the set up sounds like a nursery-rhyme: Samantha’s grandfather has climbed down a well and refuses to come out, so she ventures into the woods to buy some crack with which she can bribe him to return topside. She doesn’t have any money with which to buy the drugs, but the faceless entity residing in the tree-trunk is willing to bargain: it’ll give her some crack for her grand-dad on the condition she smokes some first.
It’s that whole losing your innocence/crossing the threshold into adulthood thing, but the catalyst here isn’t perhaps what you expect. Breutzman plays into the overtly trippy nature of his tale by giving Samantha twin brothers with over-large ‘C’ shaped heads complete with eyeballs dangling on downward stalks.
The tales provide a nice one/two, with van Sciver’s art style typically looser, visceral, all dense blacks, while his comic is lighter in tone and humour, providing a complimentary contrast to Bretzman’s fine lined, clean, cartoony illustrations, but inherently darker story.
So back to that initial question: is this worth getting? In a word: yes.