Ghost Tree #1

80%
80%
Captivating

Ghost Tree #1 takes some time to set up, but for those of us not terribly familiar with Japan, I think this helps to immerse us in the setting and gradually add the supernatural flavor. I really like the family moments, the premise is fascinating, and it is just a gorgeous book to look at.

  • Writing
    8
  • Art
    8
  • Coloring
    8
  • User Ratings (0 Votes)
    0

Ten years after the death of his grandfather, Brandt goes back to his ancestral home in Japan for a rendezvous arranged when he was a boy. What will he find? Travel along with us as we review Ghost Tree #1 from IDW Publishing.

Ghost Tree #1 ReviewGHOST TREE #1

Writer: Bobby Curnow
Artist: Simon Gane
Colorist: Ian Herring with Becka Kinzie
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: April 24, 2019

Ghost Tree #1 is the story of a young man with some problems at home who comes back to his grandmother’s house in Japan. There he discovers a strange family legacy and a haunted tree. How will this affect his life, his relationships…and his future?

THE ROOTS OF FAMILY RUN DEEP

Ghost Tree #1 opens on a really interesting looking house near the woods in the summertime. Brandt, a little boy, is running around playing imaginative games as his grandfather sits on the porch, just enjoying being able to watch him. Suddenly, the grandfather sees something in the woods and walks off after it. Brandt switches from his make-believe about mind melders to follow Ojii-chan through the woods. Ojii sees him and talks to him about how good it is to be curious, and together they walk to a huge, gnarled tree and Ojii-chan asks Brandt to promise to meet him there ten years after he dies. It’s a terrific opening.

The next scene is several years later. An adult Brandt – immediately recognizable, is on a plane, presumably headed to Japan. We follow him to the airport where he is met by his cousin Mariko and her little boy. Brandt has not been back to Japan for years but felt like coming back now, to see everything, especially to see his grandmother Baa-chan. Brandt, as you might expect from his name, has a mother who is not Japanese. Mariko also asks him about Alice, his wife, and it is apparent there are some problems there.

They arrive at Baa-chan’s house, and she serves them a meal and asks Brandt about his wife. Mariko also asks her about her life with their grandfather. It’s one of those family conversations that is familiar, where you can feel the difference between generations, and where you can sense undercurrents of discomfort.

Brandt excuses himself and goes outside, looking at the woods, remembering running around them when he was a boy. Then he sees a figure in the woods and goes off after it, but it vanishes. Later that night, as he sleeps, that same figure comes into his room and stands over him, watching as he sleeps and then watching as Brandt wakes in the middle of the night and opens a box of old photos and letters. It’s very spooky.

The next day Brandt walks through the woods to the tree. And his grandfather is there, happy to see him. Brandt is confused, but also feels he knew this was going to happen. He does not remember that day, long ago, when his grandfather asked him to meet him here. A kami lands on Brandt’s shoulder, and Ojii explains. This is a ghost tree, a tree that ghosts are drawn to. Some members of the family can see then and talk to them. Apparently, Brandt is one of them, and his grandfather then tells him he should never have come back. He knows something more; he knows this is a curse, that there is no life for Brandt here. He should leave. But if he won’t leave, he should listen to the ghosts.

In the final panels, the spirit Brandt saw in the woods is with the ghost of a young woman who recognizes Brandt. She was in the photos in the box of letters he went through.

HAUNTINGLY BEAUTIFUL

There is such a lovely flavor in the art of Ghost Tree #1. You get a sense of it right from the very striking cover, and it just continues. The inking has a style that makes me think of woodcuts, and I really like the way it looks here. In fact, everything is interesting to look at. The house in the woods has large porches and open doors and it looks like it would let the breezes through. The woods have a tangled look to them, and the Ghost Tree is twisted and curved, filling the page.

There are sections of the story that are told through the artwork, such as Brandt’s trip. It’s a collection of small, quiet moments that we recognize and that show us that Brandt is a little bit of a fish out of water in Japan. The nighttime scene with the spirit also has no words. Brandt doesn’t see the spirit, but we do. It is strange and supernatural, and we don’t know if it is sinister or hostile. There’s also a nice scene where Brandt his helping his grandmother as she cooks. Again, there are few words. There are only some very subtle changes in facial expressions. But it quietly tells us so much.

BOTTOM LINE: CAPTIVATING, WITH A THRILL OF SPOOKINESS

Ghost Tree #1 takes some time to set up, but for those of us not terribly familiar with Japan, I think this helps to immerse us in the setting and gradually add the supernatural flavor. I really like the family moments, the premise is fascinating, and it is just a gorgeous book to look at.


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About Author

By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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