Beyond Flesh And Blood: Reviewing ‘Family Tree #4’

by Brendan M. Allen

Grandpa Judd and Loretta are close to a reconciliation of sorts just as the crazed and deadly Arborist closes in on their Chinatown hideout.

Have you met Meg? Sweet kid. Turning into a tree. Takes after her Dad. Just met her Granddad, who rushed her, her Ma, and big brother to a doctor who says she can help, but only just kind of. Oh, and there’s an armed cult of “arborists” who want to cut the kid down. Tracking? Good.
In Family Tree #4, it quickly becomes evident just how serious the situation is. Judd’s been trying to convince Loretta that he’s got their best interests at heart, that he knows what the hell he is doing, and that she must blindly follow him down this crazy rabbit hole in order to save her little girl. ‘Retta isn’t easily swayed, but after the events in this episode, I think she just might come around.

Jeff Lemire has been letting out just enough line to get readers to take bait and this is where he pulls in the slack and yanks good and hard to set the hook. This thing has been pretty dark from the start, but it’s clear we’re only going to get darker and more twisted from here. 
The art team of Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, and Ryan Cody get to cut loose with the gore in a melee that lasts most of the issue. Six shooters, and katana, and shotguns, oh my! Lots of folks die. Action sequences are frenetic and brutal, but incredibly easy to track. There are also those tender family moments, in the midst of the mayhem, that will hit you hard. I’m not crying. You’re crying! Shut up!

I’ve called The Family Tree the sleeper in my pull list. I didn’t expect to like this thing nearly as much as I ended up. I picked it up with the promise of some classic body horror, eco-horror, cults and apocalyptic doomsday dread, and it sucked me in. This is one of those genre bending stories that transcends the sum of its parts. All right. Fine. I’m in. Let’s kick this pig!

The Family Tree #4, Image Comics, 19 February 2020. Written by Jeff Lemire, art by Eric Gapstur, Phil Hester, and Ryan Cody. Edited by Will Dennis.

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