REVIEW: ‘The Ghost Tree,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ghosts stories come in all shapes and sizes. The kind you see most are the scary ones, tales of possessed children and grisly haunts. But there are other kinds of ghost stories out there, thoughtful tales meant to explore life and what comes after. Let’s take a look at Ghost Tree #1, from IDW Publishing, written by Bobby Curnow, with art by Simon Gane, colors by Ian Herring and  Becka Kinzie, with lettering by Chris Mowry

When Brandt was a boy visiting his ancestral home in Japan, his grandfather took him to see a tree. The woods behind their home were dense, and one day while Brandt played his grandfather stood up and walked into them. Being a curious boy, Brandt followed, just as his Grandfather expected. And there, underneath the branches of an enormous tree, his grandfather asked Brandt to make a promise. “I want you to meet me here, under this tree, ten years after I die.”

That was years ago. Today Brandt is a married man, with many troubles. And yet, ten years after grandfather’s death, Brandt finds himself drawn to his ancestral home, and the Ghost Tree that waits in its woods.   

I’m kind of in love with this book. I read a lot of supernatural fiction as a reviewer, and ghost stories are a dime a dozen. So many stories lose their way while explaining away their haunting. They unmask the ghost but lose its heart.

Ghost Tree #1 understands that it’s not the ghosts that matter in a ghost story, but what they mean to us. They’re fragments of the past and previews of our own deaths, which can spur reflection and healing in those who experience them. Just ask Charles Dickens.  

In Ghost Tree #1 Bobby Curnow presents us with a character in need of such reflection. If Brandt is haunted by anything, it’s nostalgia. Before anything, we see Brandt as a happy rowdy kid living out a pastoral Japanese vacation. But adulthood brings new problems, and Brandt has plenty. With his marriage on the rocks he retreats to the past, which imbues Ghost Tree #1 with a wistful energy.   

Simon Gane’s wildly expressive art style only enhances that energy. Gane renders characters with beautifully thick linework and wildly expressive faces. They capture the subtlest change in emotion, allowing the characters to spring to life on the page.  Since much of Ghost Tree #1 eschews exposition in favor of textless contemplation, Gane’s illustrations go a long in creating this world. 

You can say the same thing when it comes to Gane’s environments. My only exposure to Rural Japan comes from Ghibli films and anime, which paint a sometimes painfully beautiful Japanese landscape. Gane’s woods, with all of their dark grain and lush foilage, capture that same magic.

With a single issue, Ghost Tree #1 has drawn me in more than some comics manage to do in entire volumes. Grounded in Japanese folklore and emotion honesty, it sets up a story that moves with the gentle rhythm of a summer breeze.

Ghost Tree #1 promises an emotional journey into the past to visit the ghosts that live there. It is available wherever comics are sold.

Ghost Tree #1
5

TL;DR

With a single issue, Ghost Tree #1 has drawn me in more than some comics manage to do in entire volumes. Grounded in Japanese folklore and emotion honesty, it sets up a story that moves with the gentle rhythm of a summer breeze.