Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Rob Guillory
Colors: Taylor Wells
Letters: Kody Chamberlain
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Given the strength of his weird work on the much lauded and successful Chew (with writer John Layman), I knew I had to check out Rob Guillory’s latest project, which he’s written and illustrated. He didn’t disappoint. Chew will relish what they find here, as it boasts the same kind of over-the-top humor and oddball, edgy atmosphere. What’s truly interesting about this story, though, is its relevance, as Guillory manipulates the notion of genetic modification of plants and the notion of more extreme visions of health care to arrive at a thoroughly entertaining and unique comic.
Zeke Jenkins is returning home to the family farm after years away. Bringing his wife and two kids along for the ride, Zeke is anxious about reuniting with his father, who’s built an agricultural empire with unusual crops: plant products that can serve as organ and limb replacements for human beings. But the family reunion goes incredibly well, even as they tour the facilities and take in the cutting-edge, proprietary innovations — innovations that the elder Jenkins protects with a surprising ferocity.
I can’t imagine an artist whose style is better suited to such a bizarre story. The central premise is quite macabre, and Guillory’s exaggerated style (as well as Taylor Wells’ colors) conveys that quality incredibly well. But the artist’s angular linework and misshapen figures also bring a playful quality to bear that tempers the weirdness and darkness in the plot. But despite those more extreme qualities of his style, Guillory nevertheless demonstrates he can capture quiet moments. The scene between Zeke and his father, as they acknowledge their rough past and work to mend proverbial fences is quite emotive, but in a quiet, restrained way.
I knew going in that Guillory would deliver in terms of the art; he has a proven track record. But the writing is just as solid. I particularly enjoyed how Zeke and his sister Andrea parallel Zeke’s own son and daughter; the boys are timid and nervous, while the girls are fierce and bold. Jedidiah Jenkins is an intriguing character as well. He’s warm and folksy and everything one would want to see in a figure who’s a farmer, but he’s also brilliant, determined and even ruthless. It appears he’s the antagonist of the story, but I can’t go so far as to see him as a villain, per se. Guillory has crafted something much more than a predictable, one-dimensional character in Jedidiah. The audience can see the harsh qualities that lie within, but we also want to believe in him, want to see that he’s somewhat justified in his driven agenda, even if he might be a bit misguided in it.
One of the elements that Guillory subtly touches upon in this story is the economics of rural America. With a growing trend toward urbanization throughout the world, small towns are suffering the world over, but the Jenkins operation has brought prosperity to such a community. As such, one can see how much is on the line for the business and the town that relies upon it. It certainly would explain the lengths to which Jedidiah’s employees might go to serve the boss and protect their livelihoods. 8/10