Writer: Rob Guillory
Artist: Rob Guillory
Colorist: Taylor Wells
Letterer: Kody Chamberlain
Review by Evan Maroun
Despite growing up in upstate NY and being quite familiar with the pungent smell of manure that comes with driving through long areas of farmland, I’m not exactly a country boy. I hate the music, the simple-man stereotype surrounding it, and I look at overalls as more of a fashion statement these days rather than for their work utility. So then, why on god’s green earth, did I want to check out Farmhand #1 you ask? Because this is a prime example of a debut issue’s cover doing its job and doing it well. When one notices zombie-like hands menacingly sprouting from the ground and a farmer casually watering them like it’s any other crop, it’s hard not to have questions.
Some of you may be familiar with Rob Guillory’s work on the series Chew, a book that’s both darkly funny and gleefully weird in its premise and execution. While Chew is written by John Layman, here Guillory takes on the tasks of both writer and artist, and it seems he has effortlessly recreated a similar tonal balance for the high-concept idea in Farmhand. Rather than grow fruits or vegetables, what if you figured out how to grow limbs and organs in the same way? One day, through a strange vision, Jedidiah Jenkins figures out how to do just this. Now owning a high-tech “Farmaceutical” institute, his son, Zeke, visits with his own family and is trying to move past the shaky history between him and his father. However, a darkness hides within the shiny depths of the institute, and Jed may just be behind it.
So because Zeke and Jed seem to be the characters at the core of this story, they get a lot of time in this book and their introduction (along with certain reveals) are the strong points. As for Zeke’s family, they fall by the wayside a bit in terms of relevance to the plot. With it being the debut issue, I understand why. I’m not too concerned, as a certain plot element hints that we will see more of them. There are a lot of ideas here, and some pages do end up feeling a bit wordy, but, outside of that, it doesn’t feel overstuffed. Fortunately, one of the advantages of a single creator taking on both the writing and art duties is that it usually delivers a wholly unified package–a consistent idea both in voice and look.
Here, it is no different. Guillory’s overexaggerated style works wonders once again with this odd premise. He is able to get laughs against the vivid greenery, and then, in a page turn, invite you into the darker, more sinister, purple and blue hues that make up the inner workings of the institute, and that’s very much thanks to Wells. She goes the extra mile to make some brilliant pages, one in particular, involving an eye-popping introduction to the Institute. There are some real moments of horror in here, and I can confidently say, I have never seen it done quite like this before. Fans of body horror, in particular, look no further.
Verdict: Buy it.
If you try to infer from its cover like me, you may think Farmhand #1 is going to be another zombie romp, but it’s not; it’s much more interesting than that. Planting a mysterious character foundation around a strange premise, Guillory has mixed up a strong fertilizer of horror, laughs, and intrigue for it to all grow in.