Family Tree #9 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Jeff Lemire, artists Eric Gapstur and Phil Hester, colorist Ryan Cody, and letterer Steve Wands. After the shocking climax of issue 8, witness the fallout of Meg’s transformations. As the seed pods she released send spores into the air, countless people instantly transform. Bustling population centers give way to forests comprised of trees that were once people.
Five years later, Josh is surviving in the arboreal wasteland. He is accompanied by his grandfather’s wooden hand, which speaks to him the same way it spoke to Judd in the past. As he stealthily traverses the overgrown wastes he discovers that he has been followed. Several heavily armed people in hazmat suits emerge and attack Josh as he flees. With the world in ruin it seems there are still plots to be foiled, and Josh aims to be the one to do it.
Family Tree #9 starts a new chapter in the, now dystopian, horror series. Though the current situation with who is a hero and who is a villain is obscured, the plot remains compelling. Seeing Josh’s transformation from angsty teen into a hardened adult is a lot of fun. Meanwhile, the mysterious circumstances surrounding Judd becoming the voice in the hand are fascinating. I regularly wish that this series would do more to explore this bizarre giant tree, so every time it reenters the plot my investment redoubles.
But what I believe to be most admirable about this series is it’s consistency. There hasn’t been a weak issue, and despite the outlandish plot I find myself continually surprised by it’s twists and turns. It is thoroughly impressive that Lemire has been able to maintain such high quality while still providing legitimate twists. Every new wrinkle feels earned and justified. That’s saying a lot considering I’m talking about a tree-filled apocalypse story where a man carries around his grandfather’s talking wooden hand around his neck.
Equally excellent is the artwork that helps to ground the strangeness of a plot through it’s grittiness. That being said, my favorite panels were those in which people were transforming. The explosive change from human to tree is visceral, despite there being little blood. As people are undergoing these transformations, Gapstur and Hester show their terrified eyes and shocked expressions in a thoroughly believable way. It’s hard to imagine what a person who suddenly made a violent transition into a tree would look like. But based on how the artists portray these events, I’m convinced they have the right idea.
The colors from Cody remain well utilized. The frequent use of pure black for the shadowed portions of the panel add contrast to the colors. Additionally, it helps make what is not in shadow pop and helps keep things visually interesting. The letters from Wands are my only remaining gripe, and it once again comes down to the letters for the voice of the hand. The light brown makes thematic sense but is still fairly difficult to read against a white background of the speech bubble. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means. But I do find myself struggling to read every time it pops up.
Overall, Family Tree #9 continues to build on the series’ momentum. It is an excellent blend of action, suspense, body horror, and mystery. Despite having been with this series since day one, I am completely baffled by what the future holds. But I can’t wait to find out, and I highly recommend you pick this series up and join me. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Family Tree #9
Overall, Family Tree #9 is an excellent blend of action, suspense, body horror, and mystery.