cover image The Low, Low Woods

The Low, Low Woods

Carmen Maria Machado and Dani. Hill House, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-77950-452-4

Machado (In the Dream House) makes her graphic novel debut with a gloriously unnerving tale of monsters, sinkholes, witches, and yearning teenage dreams. Shudder-to-Think is a town where men died “hacking up pieces of lung or crushed beneath ten tons of rock” in the mines and women lost their memories, or just went missing, regularly. That’s what happened to El and Vee, two best friends who at some point in the 1990s wake up in a movie theater with no recollection of the film and decide to investigate the mystery behind that gap in time and the strange happenings around the community. As they dig deeper, they realize Shudder-to-Think’s cruelties and erasures—and the grotesque creatures in its woods—share a nefarious connection. As it happens, in this place where a fire has burned for years underground, humans can be the worst monsters. Within the horror plot lives a touching tale of friendship, choices, grief, and empowering rage, with a female-centered queer and diverse cast of characters. Machado also offers a rare look at magic as karma: “Magic is, among other things, a metaphor. It’s a kind of sacrifice. What I do to others I do to myself,” intones one of the mystical, ageless forest dwellers. The eerie, sketchy art by Dani suits the mood: her brooding figures skirt the edge of disappearance. This will surely call out to fans of Machado’s searing prose, and it will also hit the spot for comics fans who like their horror heartfelt. (Sept.)