Confession time—I never read Blankets, creator Craig Thompson’s first big work. And it now turns out Ginseng Roots is a somewhat direct sequel.
This issue opens with Thompson going back to Wisconsin—he’d been living in Portland, OR (of course), which makes the questionable L.A. cartography last issue more permissible—and meeting up with his younger brother, Phil, to drive to the family farm house. Not farm, but farm house amid other people’s fields.
On the way, Thompson introduces a second sibling, sister Sarah, who was left out from Blankets; there’s a bit about the fallout from Blankets, both in terms of the parents and the sister. The parents didn’t like it because it’s about Thompson’s fall from Evangelical faith and Sarah because she wasn’t in Blankets. She even wonders if it won’t be too confusing to include her in the ginseng comic, which Thompson is talking over with his family.
How’d it turn out? She’s on the cover of this issue.
And the parents have at least accepted Thompson’s previous work to the point there’s a copy of Blankets on the bookshelf, which is bare of books other than Thompson’s creative output. Presumably there’s a Bible around somewhere.
Creating a comic lionizing Red State farmers in 2019 is going to be something, but Thompson seems to be aware he’s going to have to address some things. It’s not like Portland is the bastion of social justice one would’ve assumed in the aughts.
The parents aren’t enthused about the ginseng project simply because they were laborers, so Thompson and his brother (who loves the idea of the comic) go to visit some farmers and former employers.
They’re a cute old couple who bitch about Americans not wanting to work anymore and how the environmentalists are ruining things. Turns out at the end ginseng can only be grown on a plot so I’m not sure an economist would agree with their take. But it’s a very nice, very informative sequence.
There’s a lot about how excluded Sarah felt from growing up with the brothers, which is awesome, unpleasant if genial work.
The first issue was good comics but this issue is outstanding comics. Hopefully Thompson can keep it going.