Friday, June 29, 2018

Review - Farmhand #1 (@ImageComics)


"We're just branches on a tree of woe."

Healthcare is seemingly a fickle thing. Some countries seem to think it's a right, whereas other countries seem to think it's a privilege. Everyone should have healthcare, but even with healthcare there are some things (like organs) that can be in short supply. In Farmhand #1 from Image Comics, organs are abundant, but the gears of the healthcare machine are still grinding. The issue is written and illustrated by Rob Guillory, colored by Taylor Wells and lettered by Kody Chamberlain.

Jedidiah Jenkins is a farmer—but his cash crop isn’t corn or soy. Jed grows fast-healing, plug-and-play human organs. Lose a finger? Need a new liver? He’s got you covered. Unfortunately, strange produce isn’t the only thing Jed’s got buried. Deep in the soil of the Jenkins Family Farm, something dark has taken root, and it’s beginning to bloom.

Guillory is no stranger to the abstract tales and his take on organ farming in Farmhand #1 is no exception. The issue opens up with something straight of a horror movie that Guillory deftly segues into modern day events via nightmare, effectively bridging the past and present to set the tone for the future. The characters at the center of business also carry the weight of the narrative with Guillory emphasizing a family reconciliation set against the backdrop of seemingly more sinister corporate machinations. Guillory weaves in and out of Jedidiah Jenkins as grandfather and ruthless businessman, providing a very dynamic character whose decisions will dictate the outcome of future events. There's plenty that the reader can relate to in the familial interactions that Guillory successfully taps into for making the book feel plausible and realistic.

A book about organ farming could easily be overtly gory and graphic, but Guillory's slightly cartoonish style adds some levity. Guillory quite brilliantly presents a farm where trees have arms, fingers grow from blossoms and hearts grow on stalks without making the reader feel too squeamish. That being said, there are some panels later in the issue that push that squeam factor, but fortunately Guillory keeps things relatively light with a little bit of blood for effect. The characters all manage to evince an abundance of emotion--everything from awe to terror to concern. Wells colors move back and forth between conveying bright airiness and dark gloom, keeping pace with the tone.

Farmhand #1 is a fairly grim look at the secrets hidden within a family. Jedidiah seems to be a loving grandfather, but there's a lot more to him than his family seems to realize. Guillory's dialogue is sharp and witty, moving the story along beautifully. His artwork does a good job of grounding the issue in fantasy, giving readers a good idea of what an organ farming operation would actually look like. Farmhand #1 is a phenomenal first issue that does everything right, priming the reader for some fairly terrible events down the road.

Farmhand #1 is available July 11.

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