In the not too distant future, human appendages are grown like crops. Need a new arm? Go ahead and pick one from a tree. New nose? We’ve got those growing on a bush. Clip off a few fingers while you’re at it.
[This review contains some minor spoilers for Farmhand.]
This is the conceit of Rob Guillory’s Farmhand. A simple farmer, exposed to a vision, gains the ability to grow human body parts. These new limbs can easily be grafted to human hosts in need of replacements. But nothing is ever that straight-forward. Beneath the good-natured farm lies darkness, conspiracy, and horror.
I recently read the first volume of Farmhand and I can’t say enough good things about it. You might be familiar with Rob Guillory. He’s coming off an acclaimed run as artist of Chew. In Farmhand, he takes the reigns as both artist and writer with colors by Taylor Wells and letters by Kody Chamberlain. It all comes together for a funny and unsettling story of body horror.
Farmhand, at its heart, is a family tale. The core of the story focuses on Jedidiah Jenkins, a farmer that can grow human organs, and his relationship with his estranged son Ezekiel. While there is most definitely deeper mystery and intrigue surrounding Jenkins Farm, the true conflict is within the Jenkins family. How does Ezekiel and his family reintroduce Jedidiah into their lives? What caused their initial fallout? How do you move forward when your dad is literally growing human organs?
Also, like, a lot of scary shit is going down.
What Farmhand does best is balance the heavy themes of family drama and horror with laugh out loud humor. It isn’t often I audibly laugh while reading, but it happened multiple times reading through Farmhand. There are plenty of great visual gags and jokes woven into heavy subject matter. Not to mention the actual horror of it all, which somehow is still creepy even while you are laughing. It’s challenging to mix humor and horror, but Guillory nails it.
We have to talk about the art, because it’s beautiful to behold. Guillory’s cartoonish style fits perfectly in this horrific world. Much like he perfectly mixes comedy, drama, and horror throughout the story, the artwork can be anywhere from cute to terrifying and everywhere in between.
Just look at these page layouts:
I just love this paneled approach that appears a few times throughout Farmhand. It really displays Guillory’s ability to give you a lot of story using limited real estate. I swear I can hear what is happening despite the complete lack of text.
Here’s another great one that covers years of backstory in less than a page:
Taylor Wells’s colors shine as well. They are bright and beautiful, often contrasting with the subject matter involved. The pages are simply gorgeous to look at.
My only criticism of the first volume of Farmhand is it feels like a lot setup instead of story progress. I loved the backstory and history of the characters, but after 5 issues it felt like more should have happened. There is a general sense of where the story might be going (the route of a an organ-induced zombie/plague infecting the town, perhaps?), but I’m left wanting more. And while that is a great place to leave the reader, it felt more like building a base instead of building to a climax.
But hey, if that is my biggest criticism, I can live with that. If you are looking for a good mix of horror and humor, Farmhand is a great place to find some. The characters are interesting and the art is wonderful. Check it out!