One of these days, I will finish the great Image Comics series Chew. It’s weird, well-plotted, and funny with great characters and an off-the-wall scenario that makes for great reading, and every time I get to the next trade of that series, I read it very quickly and wish for more.
However, that series is over now, and the artist from it, Rob Guillory, has a new series from Image out now called Farmhand. The first trade, subtitled Reap What Was Sown, is out now and we can see how well Guillory works on his own.
Zeke Jenkins is moving back to his childhood home after years away. He’s estranged from his father Jed, such that Zeke’s younger child has never met his grandpa. The two had a falling out over…something, though it’s never said exactly what aside from the basic idea that Jed kept secrets from Zeke, as well as Zeke’s sister Andy. As it is, Jed does have something of a secret. See, Jed is a farmer, and he has a very special crop in the form of special plants that produce replacement human organs. These replacements can often be simply grafted onto a person within seconds if there is a need, and they soon adapt to appear virtually identical to the original missing part. There are a lot of questions for where and how Jed figured out how to do this, but his now-booming farm made the small town of Freetown, Louisiana a major stop in the world of health care.
Of course, all that also means there are a lot of people who want answers. Communist spies routinely try to steal samples, the United States government has its own interests, disgruntled former neighbors grumble, and then there’s the older woman who runs the antique shop that has her own interests and connections to Jed. How much does Jed know? He isn’t saying, but Zeke already doesn’t quite trust his father as it is, and it doesn’t help that both of Zeke’s kids go to work on grandpa’s farm.
So, for starters, the good news is Guillory is doing just fine as a writer. He does take time to thanks his Chew collaborator John Layman for encouragement, but this work is all him, and he has set up an intriguing story. The script is maybe not as humorous as Chew, but he did pack plenty of sight gags into the background, and that’s assuming flowers with human teeth poking out isn’t funny enough. That’s not to say Guillory’s work is without any sort of humor. He has a number of weird bits that work as intentional comedy, and the scenario itself is outright ridiculous. But the overall tone as the volume comes to a close is a lot closer to sinister than funny. For all that I love me some Chew, I do get the impression that Farmhand is going for a different tone, and the storytelling may actually be a bit more ambitious. The first volume of Chew ended with what looked like a fairly straightforward story with some hidden secrets, but Farmhand already has far more balls in the air than Guillory’s previous series, and so far it seems like he’s balancing them well. The last of the five issues reprinted here really goes more into horror territory and away from the more dark humor/family drama of the rest of the book. Fans of Chew would do well to check this one out. 9 out of 10 weird caterpillars.