Friday, 19 September 2014

Trees #5 Review (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)

The military in Somalia are planting missile launchers onto the surface of the smallest “tree” in the world (that happens to look like an AT-ST walker from Star Wars!), perhaps to provoke a response from the unseen aliens. Will the aliens do something about this possible threat or are they going to continue to ignore us? Elsewhere, we check in with the other characters in China and Italy, and in Norway the scientists discover the alien black poppies are pretty dangerous. 

So at the end of the last issue when military units began deploying, I thought Warren Ellis was finally going to give us the humans vs aliens storyline that a lot of readers have been expecting. But no! The military units simply set up shop and that’s it. It’s almost like Ellis wants to hold off the drama as long as he can or simply not do it altogether. While that might frustrate some readers wanting a kind of Independence Day comic, for me, it makes Trees all the more curious. 

Jason Howard’s art isn’t bad but it feels like sub-par Guy Davis art at times, and in this issue especially it’s really noticeable how angular his faces look. One of the African women’s jawlines was so pointy that it looked like something from Piccaso’s cubist phase! I’m really liking the series covers though, they’re stylishly designed and have bold, eye-catching colours like this issue’s, which has a striking yellow look. 

The series for the most part has chosen to focus on one or two characters per issue but in #5 Ellis jumps around to nearly all of his storylines. In Chenglei’s pages there are panels of an encroaching military force bearing down on the cultural city around the Chinese tree and, with the quick cuts to the other characters around the world, it feels like Ellis is building up to something dramatic. Then again, it could just be Ellis teasing the reader once more and continue to keep the comics drama-free!

That said, I’m still not sure what all of the characters’ storylines have to do with anything. Chenglei’s sexual and artistic awakening, Eligia’s training by the old man to become a good knife thrower in Cefalu (I’m assuming this means an assassin of sorts?); I mean, I get that their stories are indirectly influenced by the trees but is that all Ellis is saying with these characters? 

The Norwegian scientists’ story develops an even more of an X-Files flavour in this issue as we discover just what the effect of the black poppies has on human tech and humans. Maybe the poppies are like the “fallen leaves” of the “trees”? Maybe they’re a by-product of what the trees are actually there for? Ellis is content to keep us guessing. 

On a surface level you can follow what happens in Trees from issue to issue but I can’t really say that I understand what all of the pieces mean at this point - things are just too murky still. But I am warming to this series slowly and the mystery, like in TV shows like Lost, works in its favour. Let’s just hope Ellis/Howard are going somewhere satisfyingly interesting with this and the ending doesn’t go tits up like Lost’s did!

Trees #5

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