Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Trees #4 Review (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)


When you first heard of Trees, you probably thought “wow, Warren Ellis does an alien invasion storyline? That’s gotta be NUTS!” and it kind of is, but not in the exciting way you think. Aliens invade by sticking giant tubes all around our planet, and then do nothing. We never see the aliens and they don’t want to rule the world or even interact with us. Because humanity is beneath them - whoever “them” is. 

It’s almost like a joke - this series takes place 10 years after the “trees” appeared, proving we’re not alone in the universe, and the whole time we were waiting for them to make first contact, they’d gotten on with their own lives. Carried on. While we waited like suckers thinking, “that’s… that’s it? They’re not even going to say hello? What the fuck!?”

The first half of Trees #4 is set in the Chinese city, an artist’s colony, that’s been built around their tree where Zhen, the hot woman, has taken out the reclusive art student Chenglei from his flat out to the art school/factory he’s supposed to be working in. Chenglei learns something surprising about Zhen, the school looks awesome, run by enthusiastic creative people, and then right at the end we’re reminded - oh yeah, this comic’s about those giant alien tubes! Except it’s not really, it’s about how humanity has responded to the news that we’re not alone. 

We’re then off to Norway - Trees is a global story - where one of the scientists, Marsh, has made an alarming discovery about some black plants found growing in the icy tundra: they contain mechanical wiring. Alien tech. 

To be honest, the Norway storyline has been the least engaging for me but the speech Marsh gives about why he wants to stay here and study the black flowers is so damn good, it drew me all the way back in. Marsh sounds like a real person, that’s how good Ellis’ characterisation is, and his motivations, his feelings, seem genuine. It’s a riveting scene. 

The issue closes in Somalia as we see the world’s smallest tree - which really doesn’t look like the giant tubes elsewhere. Could it be something else? - as a human military operation begins to… what? Investigate it? Blow it up? We’ll have to wait until the next issue to find out, but it looks like action is on the way.

Four issues in and I’m still on the fence with Trees. Some issues are better than others and I want to like it but, man, is this a slow burn! I suspect it’ll read better in the collected editions rather than piecemeal, one issue a month, but the issues themselves aren’t bad - they just feel like a long-form story that’s been chopped up into comic-book-length chunks. 

Trees #4 is one of the better issues in the series so far and if you’re interested in a thoughtful sci-fi story that looks at the effects of an alien invasion on humans rather than your Independence Day-type crap-fest, guns blazing nonsense, it’s certainly worth a look.

Trees #4

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