Welcome to the 3rd edition of The Blood Bank! This week we are going to break down a book perhaps a little more mainstream then the other comics we have previously discussed. Yet, nevertheless this title deserves to be spoken to as it is one of the very best 2018 has had to offer a tad more than halfway home thru another year. Furthermore, we were just given issue #2 last Wednesday August 8th. This gives anyone plenty of time to jump on as it is truly still in its infantile stages of development. I am speaking to Rob Guillory’s brilliant Farmhand.
There are many of you reading this that perhaps are new to Rob Guillory’s work. His critically acclaimed award winning work on the 60 Issue run on Chew gave way to him becoming more of a mainstream name within comics. Unlike Chew, Rob is responsible for both the art and writing with Farmhand. This has truly given him a platform to showcase his overall talent.
Family is at the center of Farmhand, specifically main character Zeke’s relationships with the family he was born into and the family he chose. Jedidiah Jenkins (Zeke’s father) is a revolutionary farmer that his managed to grow human organs on his farm thanks to breakthroughs in stem cell research. Hands and fingers grow off of the limbs of trees, eyeballs are the center of flowers, and of course, there are scalp bushes.
Here is Rob speaking directly to the foundations:
I was surprised at how much “there” there was to the story. What started out as a shallow thing, the more I dug into it, the more I found its roots to be far deeper and darker than I could’ve expected. Suddenly, it wasn’t about farming or weird body part plants. It was about the human condition, the condition of the soul and the roots of evil. That’s deeper than expected, but that’s fertile soil for a great story, I think.
Zeke is an everyman — most will be able to relate to him. He wants what's best for his family. His father on the other hand, is one of the creepier characters. Farmhand blends its tones together quite well. While one page may be more horror-like, another may be more comedic. There’s some thriller too and everything feels very natural together.
Rob’s art is simply stellar. The pencils and inks have the same cartoony style that fans of Chew are used to, and it fits the overall tone of the book. Not only does the style complement the story, but it also makes the gruesome nature of an organ farm easier to swallow. The cartoonish style leads to animated characters, which makes the book way more fun than it has any business being.
Not a single page or panel in this issue is wasted, which breathes life into the story. Guillory’s art is stellar as expected. Every panel contains an odd mix of charm, humor, and dread. The art is strangely gorgeous and ugly at the same time. These below panels do a great job of explaining so much, with little dialogue expressing most of Zeke’s highs and lows of life. Great storytelling presented here in such a simplistic form.
Within the second issue, Guillory continues his weaving of magic exploring every one of the book’s core characters while also adding a couple of new ones. This includes a mysterious, grandmotherly antiques dealer/amateur herbalist and a muscular, tough preacher whose Good Book packs quite a punch!
What truly makes this book stand out the way that it does is a sense of looming terror – a sinister, unseen feeling that something terrible about to happen. This isn't a book that shies away from showing terrible things either, but what we see is only made more effective and unnerving by the implications of what's going on in the background.
Rob’s peeling back of the proverbial onion reveal twists and turns and I’m sure more and more secrets and stand out characters are on their way as this story has it all.
Make no mistake, this is a horror story, Farmhand features excellent art, nuanced characters and a fascinating hook at the heart of the story. This plays out drawing in readers with realistic family moments and emotions. Finally, showing us a darker, bleaker underlying tone revealing itself in the dirt and its surroundings.
I can not recommend this book enough. You will see this talked about come the Eisner awards no doubt. Bravo Rob! You have treated us readers to a special treat.
Please tell me your thoughts! Are you enjoying this too? Let’s create some dialogue within the responses. There are some of you whom I know have already made this book a favorite. It would be great to hear from all the readers of this rich piece of storytelling!