Loretta and her family are surrounded by deadly cultists and running out of time when Grandpa Judd arrives toting his ornery attitude and his trusty shotgun. But what good is a gun against a mysterious ailment turning his granddaughter into a tree?
Family Tree #2 jumps back a year to 1996 to give a little perspective and history on the whole girl-turning-into-tree situation. That gun wielding fellow at the end of the opening chapter? That’s Judd. He’s apparently the kids’ estranged grandpa. And he seems to know a hell of a lot more about this whole Flora Colossus transformation than anyone else, since he went through the exact same thing with the girl’s dad just the previous year.
Jeff Lemire opens up more of that complex character work in this second chapter. We already liked Loretta from what we saw in the series opener. She’s plucky. On her own, working a few jobs to keep her kids in clothes, shoes, food, and shelter. Getting by. Now, we get more of the story. The kids’ dad didn’t bail on them. Well, I mean, he did, but not for the reasons Loretta thought.
Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, and Ryan Cody bring an interesting aesthetic to Family Tree. There isn’t a lot of detail in most of the panels, but the minimalist style gets the job done impressively. Thick, sparse lines. Muted, depressed palette. Hardly any backgrounds. This team knows how to draw readers right into the important stuff without wasting page space on wallpaper and clouds.
There are an awful lot of very familiar tropes in play with Family Tree. Body horror, eco-horror, family drama, cults and doomsday prophecy… But the way Lemire and co. are leaning into convention makes it seem like they have something else entirely up their sleeves, and I really, really want to know what it is.
Family Tree #2, Image Comics, 18 December 2019. Written by Jeff Lemire, art by Eric Gapstur, Phil Hester, and Ryan Cody. Edited by Will Dennis.