Something I’ve always appreciated about Jeff Lemire’s stories is that they seem to have an element of magical realism imbued within them. It makes the stories much more universal and the characters that much more relatable. Loretta’s character is the beaten-down, hard-working, yet unhappy mother who is genuinely trying her best under the circumstances she’s been forced into. It’s not every day that your child starts growing a branch on her back, but Loretta focuses on the important thing: making sure her child gets the best care that she needs. It’s an admirable quality of any parent.
Lemire also skips over the “first chapter” issue that plagues many stories. The first issues of new series must do their best to show readers why they should care about the characters; however, this is a challenging undertaking and can cause a slow start in the story, until it picks up steam from the conflict. Here, Lemire provides a slice-of-life beginning and introduces readers into the body horror of it all: transforming into a tree. It’s his use of magical realism that creates this seamless approach to storytelling that I feel every character should use.
The art team of Phil Hester, Ryan Cody, and Eric Gapstur also need to be commended. The issue's rough and rural style lends itself to the chilly atmosphere. You can feel the air blow through the trees of the small town, as well as the cramp, tight spaces Loretta that occupies, as though the weight of the world is squeezing her tightly. It’s impressive how the illustrations can propel a story into even greater heights, and Hester, Cody, and Gapstur succeed here.
Family Tree is a story of a mother protecting her children and a family sticking together through even the most challenging of times. It’s a body horror story with familial connectivity at its heart and magical realism resonating throughout the pages. It’s a story that’ll keep you wanting more, and it's off to a great start in the first issue.
Creative team: Jeff Lemire (story), Phil Hester (art), Ryan Cody (art), Eric Gapstur (art)
Publisher: Image Comics
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