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Carmen Maria Machado Delivers a Surrealist, Beautiful Horror Comic in The Low, Low Woods #1

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BY December 23, 2019
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When an acclaimed prose writer makes the leap to comics, it’s important to take notice. For instance, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ long-running Black Panther and Captain America. Before Black Panther #1, he was already a popular writer on social issues with likes Between the World and Me and The Beautiful Struggle. So, when Carmen Maria Machado, the Lambda-award winning, Nebula and National Book Award nominee author of Her Body and Other Parties, started writing The Low, Low Woods, a horror comic for DC’s new Hill House imprint, I definitely wanted to take a look at issue #1. How did it turn out?

Damned Brilliant.

The Low, Low Woods #1: Machado, Dani, and Bonvillain a Gritty Atmospheric Nightmare

Low Low Woods, Carmen Maria Machado, Dani, Joe Hill, Hill House, DC Comics (Image: Carmen Maria Machado and Dani, The Low, Low Woods #1, DC Comics)

Machado writes a creepy story before the art is even a part of it—women wake up with memory loss, unsure of how they got where they are. Weird creatures come out of the woods and attack people. And the Earth is cracked and smoking thanks to coal mine fires that a mega-corporation never put out. Then we get to the art.

Low, Low Woods, Carmen Maria Machado, Dani, Joe Hill, Hill House, DC Comics (Image: Carmen Maria Machado and Dani, The Low, Low Woods #1, DC Comics)

Dani’s pencils are erratic and in a way, undefined. They’re off in the best way. Everything is off in a meticulous way. It’s creepy as hell…and then Tamra Bonvillain (best name ever) comes in with her muted pastel tones. In one sequence, when there’s some back story, the colors work like seeing fire through a haze and it’s a greatly unnerving effect.

Machado and Dani’s Creatures in The Low Low Woods #1 are Terrifying.

Low, Low Woods, Carmen Maria Machado, Dani, Joe Hill, Hill House, DC Comics (Image: Carmen Maria Machado and Dani, The Low, Low Woods #1, DC Comics)

True, we only get a good look at one in Machado and Dani’s The Low, Low Woods #1, but it’s a great promise of more to come—and stranger ones too. But look at this first one. It’s like H.P. Lovecraft and Stranger Things had a baby…and that baby did some messed up things with a deer. What will we see next in this crazy book?

El and Vee Are Instantly Likeable Characters

Dani, Joe Hill, Hill House, DC Comics, DC Black Label (Image: The Low, Low Woods #1, DC Comics)

When Machado and Dani’s The Low, Low Woods #1, the characters El and Vee wake up in a movie theater just as a movie ends, their boots covered in mud. They have no idea how they got there, and that’s something that the town has a long history of. But the way Machado writes them is pretty brilliant. By the end of the issue, their friendship is perfectly defined. How they react to the phenomenon, how they talk about the girl Vee likes, El’s parents—it’s uniquely them and it feels like you could drop these two in any kind of comic—crime, superhero, western, whatever—nothing would change in their dynamic.

And now we get to see how their friendship develops—or how it’s shaken—in a great new series.

Grade: The High, High Praise

(Featured Image: The Low, Low Woods #1, DC Comics)

COMICSDC ComicsCarmen Maria MachadoDaniDC Black LabelHill HouseJoe HillThe Low Low Woods

Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.

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