IDW Publishing 2019
Written by Bobby Curnow
Illustrated by Simon Gane
Coloured by Ian Herring with Becka Kinzie
Lettered by Chris Mowry
Consultant Takuma Okada
Seeking a refuge from an unhappy life, Brandt returns to his ancestral home in Japan to find a haunted tree and the departed souls that are drawn to it, including his Grandfather. Brandt attempts to heal some of history's wounds but will he be able to find any measure of peace for himself when someone special from his past returns?
I was intrigued by this because it felt like it would be of Japanese origin based on the title and the look of the cover. I was right and I was right to be intrigued because this is amazing. Japan is a land full of history, culture and superstition and it has so much that is able to pulled from. From the Suicide Forest to individual family belief’s to the Ronin and Samurai all of which just seems to lend itself to some of the most beautiful storytelling I have ever seen. Also they make some killer horror flicks to go along with the Manga and Anime.
In a tale such as this a solid story isn’t going to be enough and you need an artist that will find their niche and make what we see haunting, interesting and captivating and this creative team manages to do that in spades. The opening is perfect as young Brandt is playing while Ojii-Chan watches and enjoys his grandson. Brandt is a very precocious lad who has an active imagination seemingly fuelled by Western culture. As his grandfather goes into the forest at the edge their house the pair come upon a tree and a promise is made. It seems harmless enough and it has all the most endearing qualities between to very different generations.
I love the way this story is structured. This isn’t going to be a story that has action and mystery to it, it’s a story story and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is something beautiful about the story itself and how it is presented to us that curiosity and interest rule your mind. The desire to see what is going to happen is planted, watered and left to grow within the reader. So when the adult Brandt returns to Japan and his ancestral home this is when things begin to take root in a way I was not expecting but was overjoyed to see.
There is something about the linework in the interiors here that captivates me. It has a familiar quality to it that you just can’t place but it makes you feel comfortable, like remembering an old Shel Silverstein tale. The attention to detail is sensational to see and how the overall mood and tone the work creates can be as cringe worthy as it can be beautiful. The way that we see backgrounds utilised here brings joy to my heart and it really does wonders expanding the moments and bringing this size and scope to the story. The colour work is extremely well done and compliments the linework perfectly. Again there is some nice shading and the utilisation of light sources is impeccable yet it’s in the grove that draw the reader in as much as it does Brandt. The utilisation of the page layouts and how we see the angles and perspective in the panels show off a stellar eye for storytelling.
This has some gorgeous moments in it, from seeing his childhood and fulfilling that promise he had forgotten he made to the reunion. There is happiness, joy, sorrow and in a culture that reveres certain ways of things being done Brandt stands out like a sore thumb. Yet through all this there is a story about love. We also learn what a Ghost Tree is and by the last panel this hauntingly beautiful idea manifests itself as much inside you as it does in the book you hold.