Review - Ghost Tree #1 (@IDWPublishing)

"It's good to be inquisitive, Brandt."

Familial bonds run deep, asking that the members of the family embrace one another and traditions within that family. In Ghost Tree #1 from IDW Publishing, one of those traditions involves a haunted tree. The issue is written by Bobby Curnow, illustrated by Simon Gane, colored by Ian Herring (with Becka Kinzie) and lettered by Chris Mowry.

Seeking a refuge from an unhappy life, Brandt returns to his ancestral home in Japan to find a haunted tree and the departed souls that are drawn to it, including his Grandfather. Brandt attempts to heal some of history’s wounds but will he be able to find any measure of peace for himself when someone special from his past returns?

Curnow's approach in the first issue is very measured in many ways, primarily in that it's a very deliberate approach. A few pages at the beginning introduce the reader to Brandt and his connection to the Ghost Tree before fast-forwarding a bit to a different time where that relationship is further explored. Most of the issue is focused on living a relatively unhappy day-to-day of sorts as Curnow writes Brandt in a way that reflects a pain and turmoil he's looking to escape. The dialogue is very straightforward and simple as Curnow emphasizes establishing the parameters of the story through relatively simple exchanges. The end of the issue is a little mysterious as Curnow leaves a lot of questions unanswered and subtly hints at the direction of the series as a whole.

The best way to look at Gane's artwork is through the lens of Stan Sakai. There are numerous instances in reading Ghost Tree #1 where Gane's style was reminiscent of Sakai's work on Usagi Yojimbo in how he uses the linework to detail the characters. There's a coarseness to the illustrations that makes it feel like an homage to older Japanese paintings/prints as Gane's approach feels ancient. There's also plenty of detail in the settings as Gane renders the woods in a way that feels haunting in some ways. Herring's colors are muted throughout the issue that further emboldens the antiquated atmosphere.

Ghost Tree #1 is a very simplistic story that has a lot of heart. Brandt is going through a rash of intensity in life, finding solace in the trip to one of his favorite spots as a kid. Curnow's script is very evenly paced and doesn't rush anything, setting up the series as a whole. Gane's illustrations are eerily beautiful and extremely adept at conveying the tone of the book very well. Ghost Tree #1 is an interesting start to a new story that looks to embrace things like family, love and finding oneself in your family.

Ghost Tree #1 is available April 24.