ADVANCED REVIEW: Farmhand #1 by Rob Guillory, Taylor Wells, & Kody Chamberlain

Farmhand #1  mixes body horror, espionage, and father-son drama.

Farmhand #1 mixes body horror, espionage, and father-son drama.

By Zack Quaintance — Farmhand #1 is as packed as the fertile soil that is so central to its plot. Or maybe loose soil is better for growing? I’m not sure, as I know so very little about farming, but I am sure that there is a lot going on in this book. This book contains a father-son story, a corporate espionage subplot, an examination of the medical good versus the religious stigma of working with stem cell research, and a whole heck of a lot of scary and grotesque body horror imagery.

It’s a credit to writer/artist Rob Guillory that this issue is so linear and easy to follow. With all of its ambition, Farmhand #1 could have gotten confusing or clunky, and it never once tips into that. The pacing is strong and the on-panel action engaging, the exposition doled out in chewable (sorry!) bits that don’t slow the proceedings any more than they need to.

This greatest strength, to me, was actually its charm and levity. I know, I know — I just ran through a whopping list of heavy contents above. Also, this is a story about scientific breakthrough that enables the growing of body parts from trees, bushes, and the ground. Yet here I go calling it charming?

It’s true, though, and furthermore I would credit it to Guillory taking advantage of doing both writing and illustrating duty by throwing in background site gags at so many turns (a breakfast cereal called Chupacbr-os, a sign that reads No pets allowed, they smell. -mgmt, etc.). He’s clearly having a blast drawing this complex tale, and it shows. It’s hard not to enjoy yourself when a storytelling is having so much visceral fun with his world.

What I did struggle with a bit while reading Farmhand #1 was focus. There’s a dream scenario that opens the book that made me think we were in a straight-up sort of old school zombie horror book. Not to go into specific (spoilers!) but there was just so much more to the plot. I am, however, dead set on returning for a second issue, suspecting as I do that subsequent chapters in this story will crystalize what the book’s primary concern is as our story progresses. Guillroy has earned as much.

Overall:  Farmhand #1 is a singular and at times charming vision that juggles a super wide range of concerns. It’s an easy and entertaining comic, if a little overburden at times with its ambition. I’m very much interested to see how writer/artist Rob Guillroy will pull it all together in coming issues. 7.0/10

Farmhand #1 is out July 11 from Image Comics.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.