FARMHAND #1 tells a multi-generation story about the horrors of science meeting agriculture. While there are nods to CHEW, Rob Guillory proves that he can tell a fresh and weird story that is intriguing, creepy, and funny. Taylor Wells is the cherry on top that brings the world of Freetown, Louisiana to life. Whether you're a fan of CHEW or someone who likes the premise, this is a must-read series.
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It’s been nearly two years since the hit Image Comics series CHEW by John Layman and Rob Guillory ended. In that time, fans and critics eagerly anticipated their next projects. Finally, at this year’s Image Comics Expo, Guillory’s next creator-owned series was announced: FARMHAND. With FARMHAND #1, Rob Guillory makes his debut as both a writer and artist, with Taylor Wells coloring the series.

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FARMHAND #1 retains Guillory’s iconic art style. This series also has the same dark humor that made CHEW famous. Guillory tells an inter-generational story about the sins of a father. What dark secrets lurk beneath the roots of a rich organ transplant farm? Suffice to say, FARMHAND #1 lives up to –and exceeds– expectations.

The Apple Falls Far from the Tree

FARMHAND #1 begins with Ezekiel experiencing a bad dream about his estranged father, Jedidiah. In the dream, Jedidiah tells Ezekiel that he should have left Jedidiah buried underground. From there the action picks up quickly. We meet Ezekiel’s family as they get ready to go to a family reunion. Ezekiel’s family members are his wife, Mae; his son, Riley; and his daughter, Abigail. But Ezekiel has doubts about reconciling with Jedidiah.

The majority of the action takes place at the Jenkins Family Farm. On the farm, we learn that Jedidiah sees a flash of light which ultimately leads to the creation of the Jedidiah seed. The Jedidiah seed leads to an organ farm business in which everything from mouths to kidneys are grown. Here, Guillory peppers self-aware humor into the background, such as signs that read, “Analysis: WTF science”.

Farmhand #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

What drives FARMHAND #1’s plot is Ezekiel and Jedidiah’s relationship. Jedidiah is a wolf in sheep’s clothing despite his pure intentions. Guillory makes it clear that there are shady things going on because the organs spurt a blood-like substance when cut from trees and plants. Even during light moments, there are hints of darkness. In short, Guillory perfectly paces the plot and keeps readers hooked until the end.

All In the Family

FARMHAND #1 has great characterization to go with the story. Indeed, the characters are vital to the plot as Guillory captures the awkwardness that comes with burying the hatchet. When Ezekiel greets Jedidiah, there’s an uncomfortable exchange of words before father and son hug. As for the kids, Riley and Abigail, Guillory gives them a fair share of the spotlight. Riley is shy and loves aliens. Conversely, Abigail is a bit of a tomboy who likes boy bands. While Riley finds the farm scary, Abigail is in love with it. Overall, Guillory makes the Jenkins family interesting and believable.

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However, Jedidiah is the most interesting character in this issue. Jedidiah’s oddly green thumb may look harmless, but what he does with it will catch you off guard. Guillory raises questions about whether Jedidiah is good or evil. Yet Jedidiah knows more than what he lets on because he lies to Ezekiel, promising to keep no more secrets. Indeed, the lengths that Jedidiah goes to hide his darkness from Ezekiel is sure to have consequences in the future.

The Art of FARMHAND #1

Rob Guillory is master of exaggerated and expressive characters. Mae comes across as the happy-go-lucky mom whereas Ezekiel is as stern as the ever concerned dad. In contrast, Jedidiah is stoic, so Guillory draws him with subtle expressions and warm grins. Throughout the story, there are some great juxtaposition panels between Ezekiel and Jedidiah. It’s a nice touch that cements the family theme central to the series.

Farmhand #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

Taylor Wells succeeds in fleshing out Guillory’s art with a mix of dark and bright colors. In the prologue, we get a taste of Wells’ colorist capabilities with blues, violets, and green that contrasts against the red of chicken blood. In fact, red is present throughout the entire story, from cars to shirts and, of course, blood. Later we see bright colors that remind readers of CHEW, which gives FARMHAND #1 an adult cartoon feel. The various hues of green at Jenkins Farm that contrasts against the browns and oranges give the compound an ominous feel.

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A Strong Start

FARMHAND #1 is like an exotic fruit you see in a supermarket: oddly shaped but surprisingly delicious. This series is easily one of the strongest debuts from Image Comics this year. Like the creators of SEX CRIMINALS, Rob Guillory embraces weird to great success. The story is well paced and has believable characters. Plus the art balances between feeling unsettling and funny thanks to Taylor Wells’ excellent colors. In the end, readers will want to know more about what caused the rift between the Jenkins family. Like Jedidiah says near the end of the story, “Y’all come back now, hear?”

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