REVIEW: ‘Family Tree,’ Volume 1: Sapling

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Family Tree Volume 1

Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling is published by Image Comics, written by Jeff Lemire, art by Eric Gapstur, Phil Hester and Ryan Cody, and letters by Steve Wands. Loretta Hayes day was going like so many others. Working her shift as a cashier, picking up the kids from school, dealing with whatever trouble her teenage son Joshua had gotten into this time, ya know, all the usual. But when a strange rash appears on her daughter Meg’s arm her day quickly leaves the usual. And where it’s going, usual will seem like a paradise in comparison.

For horror to truly hit home the reader must care for the characters within the story. It is their concern that builds the tension as the story unfolds. Characters that are relatable and invoking sympathy are, in my opinion, the best to place at the center of tales like Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling. Happily, Loretta Hayes is one such character.

Loretta has all the makings of a great leading character. By the time I had spent a full issue with her I felt like I knew her life story. Her personality is such that we all feel like we have known a Loretta. Stuck in a dead end job while being a single parent, she comes across as a bit short tempered, but through her introduction you understand why. Lemire does a great job of not just allowing her to be flawed, but making the audience forgiving of her flaws. She isn’t perfect, but who would be in her situation? Heck, I would probably be dealing with it worse than she is. It’s a delicate art to make a character flawed, but not poison them with their flaws. Lemire delivers this perfectly with his lead.

Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling

While Loretta certainly stars in this story she is by no means the only authentic feeling character present.  The entire cast feels genuine and fleshed out. From her teenage son who is too disconnected from his surroundings to realize when he is hurting someone, to the grandfather who struggles to adequately express himself.  These characters all manage to drive their personalities home without being reduced to caricatures of who they are supposed to be.

The art for Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling supports its story wonderfully. Hester, Cody and Gapstur create a visual aesthetic that matches the story’s grounded feel, while not shying away from its more violent, and horror fueled moments.  Everything from the lines to color choices come together to create a seamless presentation that flows smoothly from panel to panel.

The final touch for the issue comes from Wands’ letters. The bubble placement is spot on for keeping the dialogue out of the art’s way, and the text, as well as bubble design itself is utilized well to give a bit of extra punch to the lines that need it. While Wands let’s his creativity enhance the words he never allows it to go too far. The dialogue is always kept clear and easy to read. The most essential part of the job.

When all is said and done Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling is a great start to this story. It sets up the characters and introduces the larger situation well. By the end of the book you feel like you have been given enough information to not feel completely lost, while leaving enough mysteries to hold a sense of intrigue for what is actually happening. I sincerely hope this story can continue to expand upon the strong foundation it has laid here.

Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling is available now wherever comics are sold.

Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling
4.5

TL;DR

When all is said and done Family Tree Volume 1: Sapling is a great start to this story.