"The Dark of the Forest" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Freaktown Comics
Written by Russell Hillman
Illustrated by Sergio Calvet
Why is camping a thing? Seriously, why does anyone ever go out into the woods at all? Every time I read a comic or watch a movie in which some people go out to enjoy nature, nothing but bad things happen. Whether they're getting their pic-a-nic baskets stolen or getting ripped to shreds by a masked killer, it's just not a good time. Indie comic The Dark of the Forest adds to my fear of the wilderness with a monster I've never seen before.
In 1978, a group of twenty-somethings head out to the woods in Northern Spain for bird watching and assorted tomfoolery. Who they are is irrelevant as they're really just cannon fodder. You've seen these archetypes before. The shy girl. The slut. The nerd. After being warned to stay out of the forest by a creepy local, they go in anyway and make camp. One of them shares a story of the Basajaun, which according to Wikipedia is a big hairy creature thought to protect livestock and teach agriculture to humans.
Of course, this wouldn't be much of a horror comic if a bunch of co-eds went into the woods and learned how to plant seeds from cavemen. The Basajaun are fiercely territorial and resent anyone setting foot on their turf. The campers didn't set up site on an ancient burial ground or read from a mystical text. They were just there. There's no real reason provided as to why these monsters are so violent or what, if anything, they're protecting.
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While The Dark of the Forest is a fun read, it doesn't provide complex characters or a sympathetic monster. It exists in the middle ground between those two areas which focuses on senseless violence with a bit of sex thrown in. It's like an average '80s slasher movie. Instead of hoping that one or more of the characters makes it out alive, you're taking bets as to which one dies first.
What sticks out like a sore thumb with The Dark of the Forest is the artwork. Sergio Calvet has a very unique style that's more fitting a humor comic than a horror one. It was tough to take the action seriously with the way the characters were drawn. As it stands, I kept expecting a joke with each turn of the page instead of dreading what the monster would do next.
The kills in this comic are many and varied. You want a beheading? You got it. What about someone getting their spine ripped out like a Fatality in Mortal Kombat? Done. Calvet's cartoonish artwork looks a little strange in these settings, like I stumbled upon an extreme version of Looney Tunes.
The Dark of the Forest is the kind of comic that anyone raised on slasher and/or monster flicks will eat up. There is a disconnect between the artwork and the story which can make it a little hard to digest at first. You're not going to get diverse character development here. Instead you're going to see a bunch of interchangeable college kids get ripped apart by big monsters in the woods.