Heads up, Shakespeare nerds –The Woods is getting very, very Shakespearean.
Whether we’re talking about poetry, plays, or pulpy comics, effective storytelling is largely just a matter of sticking your characters in tough situations and seeing how they deal with it. Kill your darlings, they tell us. Give ‘em hell. Make ‘em sweat. See what happens.
It’s fun and interesting to watch fictional characters strive and suffer under our control, under our artificial parameters and tropes.
But – in a sick little twist – The Woods imagines what would happen if someone felt that way about actual people.
The Woods #8 explores the dysfunctional friendship between Adrian and Isaac – if you can call it a friendship.
And I wouldn’t.
It also introduces Adrian’s mother, who is awesome in a terrifying kind of way. She sees Adrian for exactly what he is – smart, cold, manipulative, but not quite as smart as he thinks he is. (Seriously, she says that right to his face. It’s awesome.) You get the distinct impression that she understands Adrian because she’s a lot like him. She nurtures Adrian’s detachment, encouraging him to pretend to care about his “friend”, to go see the school play because Isaac built the sets.
Adrian’s mother also happens to be a big fan of said play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – calling it a “beautiful little experiment”.
She’s exactly right – that’s essentially what A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the majority of Shakespeare’s comedies are: experiments where a bunch of characters, out of sorts with the “real world”, take a transformative (and sometimes supernatural) journey that sets them up for love, success, and happiness. (If you’re interested in reading more, C. L. Barber wrote the book on this idea.)
But, when Adrian’s mother talks about “experiments” – about putting people through hell and back – it’s clear she’s not talking about literature. She’s advising Adrian on how to manage the people around him. It’s creepy as heck.
The larger irony, of course, is that one year after this scene takes place, her son and all his friends (I mean, “friends”) are whisked away to a magical alien world where they’re having transformative experiences, confronting truths about themselves, falling in love…
Yeah, you get the picture. (It’s a very Shakespearean picture.)
On the alien planet, Adrian’s authorial or directorial control over everyone around him isn’t just a metaphor anymore – it’s a nightmare. He enjoys seemingly limitless control over his surroundings – and not just because he’s appointed himself leader of a ragtag bunch of high school students on a perilous quest.
Thanks to Adrian’s psychic connection to the arrow-shaped artifacts in the woods, he can now communicate with otherworldly beings, control deadly alien technology, and conjure giant dragons to whisk him away.
(Adrian is unquestionably a Grade-A Douchenozzle, but – darn it – the kid knows how to make an exit.)
And, then there’s the really tragic side to all this – Isaac.
Isaac idolizes Adrian, and he’s also more than a little in love with him – thanks in no small part to Adrian’s mother’s manipulations.
Isaac is willing to follow his best “friend” into the jaws of death – which, in the alien forest, are not a figure of speech.
So, when the three Hunters try to convince everyone that Adrian’s new powers are putting everyone in mortal danger, Isaac defends him. Not just because he thinks Adrian is innocent or because he’s his friend. Isaac is willing to die for Adrian because he’s convinced that Adrian is the hero of this story.
Unfortunately, Adrian and Isaac have very different definitions of what a hero is.
Adrian callously puts Isaac’s life in danger, breaking the poor guy’s heart in the process, and flies off to do whatever it is you do when you think other people are just characters in your own story.
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios
Mad Moll Green writes in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She loves horror movies, comic books, and ironic spandex.