Review by C.J. Bunce
Few comic book stories this year presented both a unique idea and a perfect pairing of writer and artist. Previewed here earlier this year, IDW’s limited mini-series Ghost Tree is coming to comic book and book stores this week for the first time in a single, collected, graphic novel edition. Prepare yourself for a refreshingly slow-paced supernatural journey into the past for a young Japanese expatriate. His name is Brandt, and he is returning to the home of his youth because of a promise made to his grandfather a decade ago. He is drawn from the U.S. to his grandmother’s home in Japan, and a fated meeting in the woods nearby.
Evoking folk tales like Momotarō and Bao, writer Bobby Curnow (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist Simon Gane (Godzilla) painted a touching, engaging, and haunting snippet from Japanese culture, bridging two generations, with a tale steeped in the otherworldly realm of so many Asian legends. Like Kim Eun-hee’s Kingdom, it bridges genres. This is not horror, despite some mildly shocking imagery, but a story of possibility, connections, and learning from the past. It’s a journey of self-discovery for grown-up Brandt, but what more can he learn from his grandfather now that his grandfather is gone? Who is waiting for him in the woods and what does his grandmother know of it? Learning from mistakes and regret, a haunted tree, and an assembly of souls that are drawn to it, plus monsters, an old girlfriend, and disembodied samurai? It sounds strange, but it works.
The great color work is provided by colorist Ian Herring. If shades of green are your thing, this series is for you. Herring’s choices make for a great combination with Gane, whose artwork frequently pulls readers into a myriad of fascinating cultural settings. Herring’s limited palette of colors is the perfect soothing addition to Bobby Curnow’s story–all three combining to make a perfect book. Gane’s beautiful style is his own, but it evokes works we’ve seen from great comic artists like Moebius, Milo Manara, and 1980s Frank Miller.
Here is a preview of the new trade edition of Ghost Tree, courtesy of IDW Publishing:
If you missed it in single-issue form, here is another chance to check it out. It’s one of the year’s best comic books, and it leaves room for the possibility of future stories. The collected, trade edition of Ghost Tree arrives at Elite Comics and your own local comic book store this week. And it’s available now for order here at Amazon.