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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

'Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees' Will Mess You Up

We review the new IDW comic that perfectly executes the cuddly and the repulsive. It's scary Richard Scarry.

Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees 1 Review

You look at Patrick Horvath's cover, and you know this comic is gonna go for it. Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees holds nothing back, leaning into its concept with gleeful perversion. Yet, the comic is more than its demented upending of the classic "Teddy Bear's Picnic" tune. It's a story of existential crisis, an exaggerated reflection of what many of those reading are probably feeling these days. Whatever comfort we once felt is eroding. Outside forces are here. Beware.

The world Samantha the Bear inhabits is familiar to fans of Richard Scarry. Woodbrook is Anytown, USA. Folks say "Hi" to you in the street. Schoolchildren respect their elders. The line between customer and neighbor is paper thin. Lessons to be learned are everywhere, and the citizens only happen to be anthropomorphized critters.

Sam runs the hardware store. She knows the name of every person who walks through the door. She's got quick fixes for their troubles and an employee she trusts like family. Five pages into the comic, you're invested in Woodbrook like you were in Amity before the shark ate the poor Kintner boy in Jaws.

Then, you remember Patrick Horvath's cover - Sam the Bear walking through the woods with a bloody sack of bits dragging behind her. Page six is where the shark makes its shadowy presence known, but this time, the shark is Chief Brody, Sam the Bear.

She drives out of town; the smile drops. She finds a stranger in the city. She puts a rag over their face. Back in the forest, things go red. Really red.

Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees' first kill is one of the most upsetting sequences I've read all year. It's graphic but not gratuitous. It's clinical. It does something for Sam that we're not privy to, and it's illustrated in the fashion of our favorite childhood stories. This juxtaposition is the cruelest and most compelling act of the comic.

And then...something else happens - something I was unprepared for and will not spoil here. Sam sees something, and we see something that calls the entire world into question, but it's a question that we've all probably had before when reading these types of stories and one that Patrick Horvath, absolutely, has had.

Listening to "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" today, it's hard not to interpret it as anything other than wickedly haunting. Sure, any song from so many decades back has a tinge of creep to it just by the nature of old-timey recording equipment. Although, if you yank the music from it and merely read the lyrics, "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" feels like a warning, not an invitation. Stay the hell away from Sam the Bear.

"If you go down in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise

If you go down in the woods today, you'd better go in disguise

For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain

Because today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic

Every teddy bear who's been good is sure of a treat today

There's lots of marvelous things to eat and wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees where nobody sees they'll hide and seek as long as they please

That's the way the teddy bears have their picnic"

Pure nightmare fuel. And that's just a segment of Henry Hall's writing. It only gets more psychotic from there.

Filtered through Patrick Horvath's imagination, "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" screams with horror, anxiety, and dread. It only works if Horvath can pull off the two sides, the sweet and the sickly, and he does so with rock-solid confidence. Horvath splays our nostalgia on the page, peeling back the layers and uncovering all the ick that frequently lurks in the past.

Finally, Horvath unveils another surprise in the last moments of issue one. Once again, the comic upends the concept. Your precious town, your precious childhood, your precious yesterday - neither you nor Sam can maintain it forever.

Quickie Review: Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees is one of the most gorgeously illustrated books of the year. It’s also a deeply upsetting and compulsively readable thriller. It tucks back into our nostalgia – where we thought we were safe – and reveals that monsters hide there too.


Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees 1 Review
Image Credit: © 2023 IDW Publishing


Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees #1

Writer: Patrick Horvath

Artist: Patrick Horvath

Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Cover Price: $3.99

On Sale: 10/18

Synopsis: Don’t. Murder. The locals.

This is small-town serial killer, upstanding citizen, and adorable brown bear Samantha Strong’s cardinal rule. After all, there’s a sea of perfectly ripe potential victims in the big city just beyond the forest, and when you’ve worked as hard as Sam to build a cozy life and a thriving business in a community surrounded by friendly fellow animal folk, warm décor, and the aroma of cedar trees and freshly baked apple pie…the last thing you want is to disturb the peace.

So you can imagine her indignation when one of Woodbrook’s own meets a grisly, mysterious demise—and you wouldn’t blame her for doing anything it takes to hunt down her rival before the town self-destructs and Sheriff Patterson starts (literally) barking up the wrong tree.

Live, laugh, shed blood. “Dexter” meets Richard Scarry’s Busy Town in writer-artist Patrick Horvath’s twisted debut of BENEATH THE TREES WHERE NOBODY SEES!

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