What is a single mother supposed to do when her little girl begins morphing into a tree? This isn’t the set up to a joke — this is the world Loretta Hayes is thrown into with her two children one fateful day in 1997. Written by bestselling author Jeff Lemire (Gideon Falls) and Illustrated by Eric Gapstur, Phil Hester, and Ryan Cody, Family Tree #1 sends this struggling family on a life-or-death journey for a cure across America.

Welcome To The End Times

The beginning of the end and Family Tree #1 starts just like any other day for Loretta Hayes. Her job as a cashier sucks, her customers are rude, and her son Joshua is once again in trouble with the school principal. However, while sitting at the table for dinner, the family quickly realizes something unusually awful is going on. What started out as a little rash on 8-year-old Meg has grown into full-blown tree bark growing on her arm.

Family Tree #1, Page 7, Image Comics (2019).
What’s going to happen to this family — and the world — to make them unable to return home? (Family Tree #1, Page 9, Image Comics (2019).)

To make matters worse, on their way to the hospital the family gets into a serious crash. It became shockingly clear this is no accident as several men are surrounding their car to grab Loretta and her children. The comic ends with her father entering the scene, seemingly to rescue his family. He is described by Loretta as a horseman, Death, of the apocalypse, which does not bode well.

Time To Think

With this in mind, there are some very intriguing elements going on with all the questions we need to be answered. Who are the men, and what do they want? Who was the man at the school, and what did he give Meg? Why is she turning into a tree? Why did Mr. Hayes leave? Where did Loretta’s father come from? And how is all of this leading up to the end of the world?

Though so much is still uncertain, we can be sure of a few things. The themes of family, survival, and body horror are definitely going to continue throughout the rest of this series. We don’t get more than a glimpse at the body horror and survival aspects that are sure to come, but family problems are front and center in Family Tree #1. With an absentee husband, struggling son, wild father, and sapling for a daughter, Loretta’s family is on very shaky ground. Having an unknown threat and a ticking clock to doomsday just piles on top, and it’ll be interesting to see if she can carry the weight, or if she’ll crack under the pressure.

Branching Out In Family Tree #1

The artwork for this comic didn’t particularly stand out, but I believe it will in the future. This is thanks to one of the prominent themes of this series — body horror. We only get a glimpse at the changes happening to Meg’s body, but what we see already is pretty disturbing.

The start of the creeping rash. Family Tree #1, Page 9, Image Comics (2019).
It begins… (Family Tree #1, Page 9, Image Comics (2019).)

The comic style is realistic enough that it forces us to think about how terrifying this situation would be. Imagine if it was your arm slowly being encased in bark, or your back beginning to grow branches. A person’s body is their safe haven, but for Meg, this safety is being violated in a grotesque and frightening way. Given that this is only the beginning, there is sure to be more body horror in store for upcoming issues.

Family Tree #1 Takes Root

With the solid base Family Tree #1 provides in our characters, I feel ready to see where their journey takes them. My questions right now are about the pot, not about trying to understand who these people are and what they want, though certainly there is more to understand about these characters. Now that the story has roots, I look forward to seeing how the Family Tree grows.

Family Tree #1 by Jeff Lemire, Eric Gapstur, Phil Hester, and Ryan Cody
Strong Family Dynamic
Interesting Plot
Weird Conspiracy-esque plot
Killer Old People
Too Soon To Tell
Only A Sapling So Far
Burning Questions
Annoying Principal
Healthy Roots