Family Tree #1 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Jeff Lemire, artists Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur, colorist Ryan Cody, and letterer Steve Wands.
Family Tree #1 opens with a narrator musing on the end of the world. That narrator turns out to be Loretta, a grocery clerk and single mother. As Loretta checks out customers she notices a strange man watching her. When he leaves she goes on break. Shortly after, her manager finds her to tell her she got a call. Her son Josh’s school needs her to go in for a meeting.
On the way to her and Josh’s meeting Loretta stops to pick up her daughter Meg. Meg gets in the back seat of the car and Loretta notices she is scratching her arm. When Meg show’s her the spot that itches it appears that Meg has a bad rash. At the meeting, Loretta learns that Josh has been caught with a bag full of weed. The principal threatens to call the police but Loretta takes Josh and the drugs and leaves. During the meeting a strange old man approaches Meg and gives her a bag, saying it will help. But Meg’s condition worsens. With something terribly wrong with Meg the family soon finds itself in a fight for their lives.
The script from Jeff Lemire is a beautiful blend of tragedy, mystery, and horror. Despite the first few pages simply being a person working their day job, every page is permeated with dread. By the time Meg’s rash has developed into something worse the knowledge that the world is ending is crystal clear. As far as horror goes, Lemire manages to hit on multiple levels. There is the clear body-horror in the branches growing from Meg. Additionally, there are the horrors of a parent trying to protect their family from unimaginable threats. It’s here that the comic finds it’s greatest strength. Loretta isn’t anyone special, but she loves her kids and has no idea how to keep them safe from whatever this is. As a result, this comic is extremely effective.
The art from Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur lends itself well to the slowly intensifying dread of the script. The art itself seems to encroach as the story goes on. At first, the panels and pages are open and bright. But the clearer it becomes that something is terribly wrong, the more shadow and darkness creeps in. When the first horrific reveal of Meg’s slow transformation is shown, the darkness fades. Not because the horror is gone, but because it is out in the open.
The colors from Ryan Cody are equally essential, especially with the starkness of the white backgrounds and the grimness of the black ones. The colors help humanize and ground what is going on in every panel. The lettering from Steve Wands is clean and easy to follow. The few sound effects that are shown are also well implemented and suit their respective panels.
I did not know what to expect when I signed up to review this comic. But, as a parent, it hit me a lot harder than I anticipated. The body horror and parental dread in this comic are well implemented and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next issue. I recommend this for anyone who is a fan of horror, especially that of the body-horror variety.
Family Tree #1 is available in comic stores everywhere right now
4.5/5 Bark covered arms