Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, Ryan Cody
Publisher: Image Comics
Jeff Lemire and Phil Hester promise a unique spin on the body horror genre with their new series from Image. Set to release on November 13, Family Tree #1 is the story of an eight-year-old girl who begins to turn into a literal tree. The debut issue introduces us to Meg, her exhausted single-mother Loretta, and her disturbed brother Joshua. Along with their eccentric grandfather, the family copes with Meg’s monstrous transformation by setting out in search of a cure. But first they must fend off fanatical cultists, mercenaries, and tabloid journalists eager to exploit Meg for nefarious means.
What makes this comic different than past body horror stories is its emphasis on a young girl and the struggle to keep her family together. Family ties shape this horror thriller as it plays to the central themes of Lemire’s work, such as loneliness and the search for identity. And, like Lemire’s Gideon Falls (2019 Eisner winner for Best New Series), the comicbook has a strong sense of place. The story opens in the run-down town of Lowell in rural Maine. The setting suggests that Lemire’s tale about family trauma is also a comment on the decaying middle class.
Phil Hester (Green Arrow) and the rest of the creative team elaborate on the distressed state of the American family. Slumped postures, tired faces, and jagged linework evoke the exhaustion of a single mother trying to keep it all together on a clerk’s salary. Drab blues and grays vest the book with a dreary feeling that makes Meg’s transformation all the more grotesque. The top-down paneling makes us all a bit unsettled. It as if we, too, are descending into the fear and surprise that grips a family that must go it alone in search of a cure for a little girl.
Family Tree #1 is a gripping family tale of horror, mystery, and action. Check it out on November 13.