The man behind ‘Chew’ is back, and you better believe this comic is as unusual as that one. It’s all about farms… and hands. Your Major Spoilers review of Farmhand #1 awaits!
Writer: Rob Guillory
Artist: Rob Guillory
Colorist: Taylor Wells
Letterer: Kody Chamberlain
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 11, 2018
Previously in Farmhand: 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.
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN…BUT WHY?
The opening sequence of this comic book is probably going to give me nightmares. We meet young Zeke and his sister Andy, who are cleaning up after some sort of animal attack on the henhouse of their family farm. Zeke is horrified when he picks up one of the deceased chickens and discovers… his father, buried beneath the earth. That’s when all hell breaks loose. Thankfully, it’s all just a stress dream, triggered by his first trip home in years, as Ezekiel and his family prepare to tour his father’s farm, where they grow not grain nor beans, but human body parts. One of the best terrible things about Guillory’s previous series, ‘Chew’, was the visceral nature of the stories, and this book follows up on that in fine fashion, with one panel showing a plant being pruned actually causing me to cry out and scare my kid. Zeke and his dad have a successful reunion, and even the kids are warming up to Grandpaw Jenkins, but behind the scenes, another crisis arises, allowing the readers to see a different side of Jedidiah Jenkins and leaving us with a final-page cliffhanger that really makes me want more of this book RIGHT NOW.
“GOOD FRUIT CAN’T COME FROM A BAD TREE…”
As someone who can be a little sensitive on the topic of body horror, I was worried that this story would be too much for me, but Guillory’s art is perfectly suited to the tone. It’s slightly cartoony nature helps to blunt the most gruesome moments (but never completely, and the moment where we see exactly HOW Jedidiah’s transplants work is only part of why this book is for Mature Readers) but even so, this comic is wonderfully unnerving. Guillory also perfectly captures the small-town, agrarian culture in ways that many writers can’t, and the locals’ response to a farm that literally grows hands is wonderfully understated. Heck, he’s bringing in tourists and new money to Freetown, so how bad can Doctor Jenkins really be? I love the subtleties of Guillory’s writing, combined with the subtleties of his art (especially in facial expressions) and a quiet conversation between Zeke’s dad and sister literally gave me goosebumps. It’s all wonderfully chilling stuff, yet still charming, with overtones of classic “dark forces in dark corners of small towns” horror stories past.
BOTTOM LINE: HORRIFYING BUT FASCINATING
Make no mistake, this is a horror story, and it needs to be made clear that the Mature Readers tag on this one is 100% earned and necessary, in all the right ways. Farmhand #1 features excellent art, nuanced characters and a fascinating hook at the heart of the story, drawing in readers with realistic family moments and emotions, then metaphorically stabbing us with the things hiding under the dirt, earning a dead-solid perfect 5 out of 5 stars overall. This book is successful as a coherent single unit of story, as a first issue and most of all, as a teaser of more excellent issues to come and I recommend it highly.