One of the benefits of conducting interviews and writing reviews of comic books is that sometimes you can spot a hit series before it even hits the stands. For the better part of the past decade, Image Comics has served as a minor kingmaker in American comics, offering readers some of the best new ideas from both legendary creators and the best new stars. This is why we are willing to bet that they have another hit getting ready to his comic book store shelves this week in the form of Farmhand #1.
Farmhand is a new series from cartoonist Rob Guillory, best known for his previous work on Chew, and colorist Taylor Wells. It focuses on the Jenkins family, three generations of farmers who have split following the loss of their matriarch. Jedidiah Jenkins has continued to operate his farm and transform it into a new enterprise, one that grows replacement parts for the human body, instead of soybeans or wheat. It has made him immensely successful -- and more than a few enemies. Now that the Jenkins are coming back together, the truth behind this farm and their past are set to be revealed.
ComicBook.com interviewed Guillory about Farmhand one month ago, and everything the cartoonist had to say left us thrilled. Now that the first issue is finally ready to be released, we are certain that fans of Image Comics, science fiction, dramedies, and more will fall in love instantly. However, if you need any more convincing, here are eight reasons to check out Farmhand #1 this week.
A lot of comics focus on the high concept when pitching themselves to new readers. It doesn’t matter how great the combination of two ideas or originality of one great new concept are, if the story itself doesn’t have a heart. That is not a problem when it comes to Farmhand. For all of the great elements of comedy and science fiction, which we’ll dig into soon enough, the story is about family at its core. The legacy of parents, the obligations of children, and the million little stories that build these essential relationships are all apparent from the very start. Farmhand isn’t just a smart comic; it’s a touching one.
The themes of family and history are sunk into the great cast of the Jenkins clan, all of whom receive great introductions in the very first issue. From the brilliant, but mysterious grandfather Jedidiah to his discerning grandchildren, every single member of the family receives at least one moment that makes it clear who they are. In spite of the science-fiction concepts, every one of the characters is rooted firmly in reality. Most readers will see a little bit of themselves in at least one member of the Jenkins, and will certainly recognize family members and relationships in others. Together they create a rich soil for the seeds of this story to start growing.
As great as the Jenkins are, it’s impossible to ignore just how wild the concept behind Farmhand really is. When readers take their first tour of the farm, they will see everything from digits to internal organs growing from a variety of plans. At times the brightly colored and friendly atmosphere still takes on the appearance of a gory scene in a classic Hammer horror film. This is mad science at its absolute finest, literally turning the human body into a product that will amaze and possibly terrify.
While the appearances of the farm have all the fixing of mad science, the actual concepts being explored are based firmly in possibilities that might become real within the next decade. Genetic engineering, DNA alteration, and the replacement of lost organs are all making headlines due to rapid advancements in different fields of science. Farmhand is already taking the time to consider some of the ramifications of these changes, both ethically and logistically. While real life certainly won’t play out this way, the series is still asking questions we will all need to consider soon enough.
The combination of family drama and bioethics makes for a one-two punch that may leave many readers surprised. Actions have consequences in Farmhand #1, and it doesn’t look like there will be any easy solutions for the Jenkins family on their journey. Whether the story focuses on unresolved problems from the past or the ramifications of trying to “fix” people, it is getting into some fraught territory. Readers can expect to be challenged by a series that isn’t scared to ask hard questions.
Readers shouldn’t think that Farmhand is a super serious, science fiction drama though. Guillory has the ability to toggle between comedy and drama every panel and there’s not a single page in Farmhand #1 without at least one good laugh. One of the great methods used for keeping the story brisk and amusing is the use of visual puns and sight gags placed in the background. Readers should take a long look at each page to catch all of the jokes they might otherwise miss, and get a whole different level of enjoyment from the comic.
It is Guillory’s skill as a cartoonist that allows him to fit so much in just the first issue of Farmhand. His exaggerated, energetic style captures emotions exceedingly well, and allows just a few lines to enhance small stories in the background of each panel. There is always plenty happening on the page as the various threads of Farmhand are told on multiple levels. Guillory is a unique talent in comics today and one that we are lucky to have writing and drawing this series.
One of the most promising elements of Farmhand #1 is what comes next. From the dream sequence that opens the issue to the cliffhanger on the last page, it’s clear there is a very big story to tell and it has only just begun. Given the great characters, potent themes, and hilarious storytelling present in #1, that’s a guarantee for a great series. It’s also one more reason why checking out Farmhand #1 is a great idea, as it’s a lot more fun to be on board from the start than to worry about catching up in six months.