By Rob Guillory & Taylor Wells
Co-creator of the acclaimed comic Chew, Rob Guillory, brings a new wild comic to hit the racks. Farmhand will inevitably draw comparison to that previously mentioned comic because Guillory was the artist on the book too and Image is marketing this new title by using Chew’s fame and success. Having this shadow looming over this work can be intimidating, but it’s clear throughout this comic that Rob Guillory has something new to say and wants to share with readers.
The plot revolves around a young man, Ezekiel, who’s clearly had familial and personal struggles, but seems working towards the right path for his and his family’s life. He reconnects with his side of the family, specifically, his father. The man has created a bio-engineering empire through breakthroughs in stem-cell research. The family reunion is held on the compound where Ezekiel, and the audience, in almost Willy Wonka-esque fashion, is given a tour of the empire. Amidst all this, a break-in occurs and the readers begin to see what’s behind the curtain or, in this case, under the soil and skin…
Guillory’s art seems to operate as a double-edged sword for this comic. It’s fairly evident that this a deeply personal story for the creator, due to how specific some of the circumstances surrounding the main family are and how in-depth character development goes. It was very surprising and refreshing, but it seems to clash with his art. His art is highly stylized and identifiable, which helps make the material stand out, but it comes from a cartoonist influence. Having the characters be exaggerated, in a caricature manner, subverts a lot of personal and emotional moments in the comic. The full intended effect never quite comes off the page.
The art itself will makes fans feel right at home, especially the dramatic prologue. Rob Guillory knows how to deliver iconic, heightened, dramatic moments well. The last several pages are a doozy. His technique is primed to accentuate these moments, due to its very nature for flair and overemphasizing. It makes the comic pop and along with the diverse and kinetic page layouts. Taylor Wells, the colorist on the comic, nails the material. It’s almost indistinguishable from if Guillory colored his pencils and inks himself. He sets the mood powerfully on every page and does his best to convey the heightened emotions that Rob Guillory’s art calls for.
The serious, believable content doesn’t quite mesh well with the far-out science fiction elements. Guillory tries to ground the content so much early on in the issue that the unrealistic elements disrupt the entire flow of the narrative when they come into play – very incongruent. It seems as if he’s trying drawing influence from working with Layman on Chew, but it’s hurting the work. Maintaining the grounded nature and incorporating actual, believable stem cell research content would have made this book soar.
Fans of Rob Guillory will and should check this comic out. It’s a fascinating study of how this creator flexes all his skills in the medium, for better or worse. It’s far from perfect, but the personal essence flowing, along with the art, keeps the book afloat. Despite a rocky start, there feels like there is still a lot of real estate that can be farmed from this concept.