Thursday, 24 July 2014

Trees #3 Review (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)

Based on the issues so far, Trees isn’t so much about the giant alien pillars (“trees”) that’ve popped up around the world or the aliens who created them, so much as it’s about what would happen to societies around the world in the wake of such an incident. Which is unexpected and has (pun attack!) acres of potential – but then clever and unexpected is what Warren Ellis delivers, so, having read a ton of his books, I shouldn’t be that surprised.

This issue takes us back to Cefalu, Italy, where the young woman we saw earlier in the series, Eligia, is tracking down the weird old man who was sketching a tree and then suddenly disappeared. Also, we’re back in the Chinese cultural city that’s (pun attack 2!) sprouted up around the tree as Chenglei, a young artist, meets a young woman called Zhen who encourages him to leave his room and sketch the rest of the city. 

Trees #3 is a more enjoyable read than the last issue because of the great dialogue between Eligia and Luca. Nobody writes fiery female characters quite like Warren Ellis and Eligia’s a lively and witty person with Ellis’ biting brand of humour. She and Luca Biongorno (the weird old man she’s tracking) have a delightful back and forth when they finally meet at the end. Ellis weaves in more world-building as through Eligia we discover more about the gang culture that’s arisen in Italy since their tree arrived and how people survive there now. There’s also a hint of a fight back against the trees if that final panel is anything to go by.

One of the series’ accomplishments so far is the way Ellis has told a global story, switching from one location to another effortlessly, and managed to tie all of the various stories together into one coherent whole. That said, some of the stories are more interesting than others and that’s where the series loses its footing. The Cefalu and Brazil stories are compelling, the Norway and China ones less so.

Nevertheless, Jason Howard’s art is consistently strong and this issue sees his best yet, drawing beautiful Italian architecture amidst the gorgeous coastline. I also really like how the credits page merges onto the first page, as it’s done in all of the issues so far. Ellis’ script has helped establish a realistic world post-trees but Howard’s art has brought that realism to the page in a big way.

I’m curious to see the aliens and want to see humanity fight back against the trees but I’d also find it funny if Ellis simply disregarded them at this point. They were the setup, they’re not the story – you’ll never see the aliens! The real story is how humanity manages to make life happen around these inconveniences. That might even be more interesting. So far though, Trees is an uneven series but definitely one of the most original being published at the moment. 

3.5 stars

Trees #3

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