AMAZING FOREST #5

If you were brought up in the ’90s, you’re at least vaguely familiar with Alvin Schwartz’s SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK series. If you’re like me, you relished the opportunity to be a mixture of disturbed, horrified, and darkly amused reading them. If that’s exactly what you want out of a book, you’ll love Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas’ AMAZING FOREST. Though not nearly as gory as Schwartz’s work, AMAZING FOREST follows a similar structure of several unrelated, yet all simultaneously strange short stories.

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The sole connective tissue between the different stories is that they’re all screwed up in their own special ways. “Villain’s Friend” is a superhero story turned on its head, “The Wish Goblin” is as borderline terrifying as the Baba Yaga folk tale, “Snow Jokes” is a quaint story that takes a turn for the ugly, and “Robo Dream” is like THX 1138 with added “wtf” art for texture. For the most part, this works really well, as it gives the writers some creative leeway with their stories and allows a wide swath of talent to showcase their skills. It also succeeds by ensuring that none of the stories overstay their welcome where they might have as full-length issues. Strangely, as many of the main DC and Marvel books suffer from needing more pages, these stories definitely benefit from the limited page counts.

AMAZING FOREST #5

The downside to having shorter stories is that it’s more obvious when a given story is not as strong as the others. This is the case with the final story, “Robo Dream.” However, even at its worst, you can appreciate what AMAZING FOREST does in changing up the hum-drum of comics. This is far from a book that takes itself too seriously. On the contrary, especially in “Villain’s Friend,” it takes a lot of typical tropes and lampoons them. The short story format works best for emphasizing this, as Freitas and Farinas are allowed to get in, make their point, and move on to the next story.

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First and foremost, though, AMAZING FOREST shines through its use of humor. Awesome, dark humor runs throughout all of the stories, but it is most glaringly present in “The Wish Goblin” and “Snow Jokes.” Both of these stories run around the humor at the center of them and lull you into a false sense of security before pulling a regular Stephen King and throwing you a curveball of an ending. Only in this case, you’re both laughing and crying whereas with King’s work you just cry (and probably see a therapist).

AMAZING FOREST #5It’s important to note that the stories would not be half as great were it not for the art. A comic book feels special when there’s a recognizable melding of minds between the artists and writers, and AMAZING FOREST is just that kind of book. Bringing on separate artists with their own very distinct styles for each story (as is the practice of AMAZING FOREST) works exceptionally, as it helps makes each one unique from the others. All of the art is great as well. It’s hard to go into depth as each one is so drastically different from the next, but they all perfectly fit the tone of the stories they’re telling. More than just being dynamic, it’s clear that Freitas and Farinas take the time to find the right artist to express their writing.

What sets AMAZING FOREST apart from other comics is that it is paving its own distinct path. Instead of falling into many of the industry’s usual tropes, this book repossesses and explodes them to create a delightfully strange structural mosaic where nothing about these stories seems like they should fit together, yet all do when put side-by-side. The true strength of of AMAZING FOREST is that it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be anything more than what it is, and that’s something that ought to be celebrated. Its diverse range of artistic and storytelling styles displays the true might of the Freitas-Farinas creative team, giving a new lease on life to the comic medium when it often feels tired and trodden. If you skip a book this week, don’t let it be this one.

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