Family Tree #1
When little Meg starts slowly turning into a tree while chaos is sweeping through the small town of Lowell, single mom Loretta, her loner son Josh, and Loretta’s mysterious grandfather must go on a journey through the back roads of America to save Meg before it’s too late.
I’m a sucker for books that have average everyday people as their focus. Therefore, when I heard about the plot points of Family Tree #1, I was intrigued and excited. The issue takes place in a small town named Lowell, where Loretta works as a cashier and lives a difficult life as a single mother to an average little girl and an obstreperous teenage boy: a life that many people in the U.S. can relate to. As her daughter Meg begins to complain of a rash, it becomes readily apparent that something is going horribly wrong.
Family Tree #1 begins to play off tropes of body horror. Seeing branches grow from Meg’s back is not drawn gruesomely, but it does have an element of existential terror to it, made readily apparent by the way Lemire writes Loretta’s terror and urgency. This is somewhat defeated by the way he writes Josh, who–while supposed to be a flippant teenage boy–acts as if this is not an emergency. This is one element which does a disservice to a wonderful book. The grandfather character is also incredibly intriguing, and I cannot wait to see more of him in future issues. It is difficult to get me invested in the “grizzled old man” archetype, when so many other comics have done it better, but Lemire weaves an aura of mystery around him that intrigues me.
Hester’s art is unique and stands out from the crowd, as usual. The dull color palette lends credence to the sense of realism the book is going for, and stylistic choices for each character make them look like average, realistic people, as opposed to the supermodel level attractive characters we generally see in comics. Josh especially has a reedy, oily quality to him that makes him look every inch the teenage wasteland archetype I can only assumed Lemire and Hester were going for.
My only major complaint for this issue is that, despite the presence of body horror and apocalypse-level chaos around them, there is a certain muted sense of urgency, as opposed to full on Defcon 1 levels of terror. Given the context of the first issue, I did not feel as if many of the characters–realistic as they were–took the situation seriously (Loretta, the mother, being the exception). This is likely only an issue that will occur within the first book, but it still gives me a bit of pause. Otherwise, it is a curious and interesting beginning to what will undoubtedly be another solid effort by Jeff Lemire.
With its unique premise and stand-out art style, Family Tree begins an interesting journey that displays what lengths a family will go to keep one of their own safe.
Family Tree #1: Our Roots Run Deep
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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