One of the greatest things about science fiction is all the wonderful little sub-genres you can find within it. You have space opera, military fiction, alternate universe, alternate histories, but probably my favorite are weird science stories. Rob Guillory has taken the weird science subgenre by the horns in Farmhand and crafted a great weird world.
Guillory, with color artist Taylor Wells and letterer Kody Chamberlain, continue to build the world surrounding the Jenkins Family farm in this issue. Riley, the youngest Jenkins, may be having hallucinations of a pug-caterpillar (pugerpillar?) at school while he’s making friends. Riley and his sister spend some time on the body part farm with their Aunt Andi. Zeke catches up with an old friend who gives him an ominous warning. Then there’s a terrible incident at the farm, when a client’s pet mutates horribly when exposed to the crops…
Reading a summary doesn’t sound that weird, but on the page it works and is so wonderfully strange. The story is a mix of surrealism and slapstick humor. The characters are oblivious to how weird this all is, which makes it work even better. Of course you have to shave the scalp tree – it just makes sense.
As for story logic, there are two types of weird science stories – ones that are plausible, day after tomorrow stories, and others where “science” is just another word for magic. The latter is basically what Guillory is doing here, and it’s so much fun. There might even been actual magic behind what’s making the body farm work.
Without those things though, the story wouldn’t work if the characters weren’t sympathetic and interesting. That’s another great thing Guillory does, especially with Zeke. At the end of the issue, when he discovers that his children’s lives were endangered, his range of emotions is instantly relatable to every parent.
Guillory the artist is just having so much fun as well. The story is played fairly straight, allowing all the gags the breathing room they need. He fills every page with incredibly funny detail, from graffiti in the bathroom, to the “adults only” area of the farm.
Wells generally is doing great work, though some skin tones end up a little weird in places. I’m guessing that it’s intentional, as everything looks “normal” until the story arrives at the farm, and then everything takes on a sickly pall. If that’s the intent, it works, but it’s not clear, which leads to my confusion.
Chamberlain’s work sells Guillory’s script very well. He’s able to take the moments where the script gets out of the art’s way, and makes sure the intent makes it onto the page. He also helps the jokes land with some different shaped balloons and captions, and some perfectly timed sound effects.
This is a strange world, but it’s really so much fun. Check it out today!
Farmhand #3 is available now from Image Comics.