Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artwork: Phil Hester
Colours: Eric Gapstur
Lettering: Ryan Cody
Release Date: 13th November 2019
Loretta Hayes is a single mother with single mother problems. She has an unfulfilling job at the local supermarket, a son who’s always in the principal’s office for the wrong reasons, and an eight year-old daughter who is mysteriously, and horrifyingly, transforming into a tree. When Loretta finds herself and her family under attack from unknown assailants, she is forced to embark on an odyssey with her (possibly crazy) grandfather to find a cure and save her daughter.
Jeff Lemire is a writer who I actively look out for in previews. He has been a favourite of mine since I first picked up Sweet Tooth a decade ago, and Family Tree is certainly no disappointment. With first issues there are times for slow, intricate world building and there are times for just diving in and letting the reader enjoy the same journey as the protagonists, and this falls firmly into the second category.
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting this issue to ramp up quite so quickly, but boy is it an effective approach. We go from a sedate, mundane (and let’s face it slightly depressing) depiction of a struggling single mother to horrifying, explosive, bloody violence in the blink of an eye. There’s genuine panic in Loretta’s actions and a lack of preparedness for what happens that is refreshing in a world where every mom in films and comics, seems to be a survival expert and jujitsu master. Interestingly, there is a very obviously prepared reaction from their attackers, who seem to know an awful lot given that Meg’s condition is such a surprise to her family.
I’m not sure if there really is such a thing but the artwork, for me, is very much the typical look of a Jeff Lemire story. It’s gritty and dark and has a really satisfying edge to it. The use of a limited palette also works really well in this situation. It’s a device that can be overused, and unless the artist has some real skill, can frequently end up falling flat and looking lazy. I’m happy to say that neither are the case here, and that the work of Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur and Ryan Cody really help Lemire’s writing leap off the page. As an artistic team, I think they’ve got the skills to keep up with whatever Jeff Lemire throws at them, and you just know that he has some great curve balls lined up.
The opening narrative tells of the end of the world, and I’m dying to see how the coming issues unfold. We’re promised shadowy mercenary groups, fanatical cults, and predatory paparazzi all chasing down eight year old Meg Hayes. If things end up being as exciting as we’re promised then this is going to be a new series to follow closely.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek