Arts Books By The Book literature Review Singapore

★★★☆☆ Book Review: The Woodsman by Elvin Ching

Action-packed supernatural horror comic leaves you thrilled.

With its dark and foreboding cover art, bloody title font, and brooding protagonist, The Woodsman already reeks of the supernatural before even flipping open its pages.

Written and illustrated by Elvin Ching, the new graphic novel’s plot is simple – when a man inadvertently stumbling upon demonic beasts in the woods, he unleashes an army of eldritch horrors, and must use his skills to stop it, in an ultimate test of wits, strength, and survival.

The Woodsman has quite a few qualities going for it. Elvin Ching’s illustrations and action scenes are thrilling. There’s an entire slew of monsters he introduces over the course of just a few pages, and one cannot help but admire the detail that goes into each design, each one more nightmarish than the last, every scale, spine and droplet of spit clearly visible. Throughout, Ching showcases a mastery over light and shadow, using it to make us feel as if something is concealed in the darkness, as if waiting for ample opportunity to jump out.

When it comes to our protagonist running from these creatures or turning around and driving a katana through their torso, each freeze frame captures every character dramatically posed. Movement is well-presented, from water disturbed by a deer’s leap, to blurred figures representing the speed at which the woodsman is moving. There is no shortage of blood, dismembered limbs and images of organs spilling out – this is not a book for the faint of heart. Ching plays with his angles well, from close-ups of characters’ eyes to exaggerate their emotion, or a change of perspective, from above, as if we are the beasts stalking our prey.

The Woodsman doesn’t have much plot to it – it really is just the story of a man saving his family from monsters, and one wishes that there was some kind of companion guide, sequel, or lengthier explanation to develop on the lore established here. But perhaps it really doesn’t need all that, as it dives headfirst into the chaos of battle, and focuses so much on bringing out as visceral a reaction as possible to each thrilling scene. More importantly, The Woodsman also introduces a smidge of LGBTQ+ representation, with a protagonist who is, in no uncertain terms, queer, partnered, and has a child, showing readers that yes, gay men can be badass action heroes, despite what popular media might otherwise suggest.

The Woodsman should be picked up for its art, worth a read and re-read just to admire the complexity that goes into the design and action scenes alone. By the time you reach its end, sure, you can appreciate it as a standalone work, but it feels like a teaser of greater things to come, leaving you wanting for even more of Elvin Ching’s art, and for it to be given a bigger platform and recognition by the general public.

Recommended for: Mature readers looking for a short but bloody good time watching nightmarish monsters get sliced up in style.

The Woodsman is published by Epigram and available here

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