Friday, 5 August 2016

Trees, Volume 2: Two Forests Review (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)


18 months, guys - 18 TREELESS MONTHS!!! That’s how long I’ve been hankering for more Tree-y goodness since the first book dropped into me grubby reading mitts! So now that the second arc is complete is Two Forests as grand as the first? Nope - but it’s still good! 

Dr Joanne Creasy survived the Blindhail Event when the Norwegian Tree (by the way, for those unfamiliar with this title, the “Trees” are these massive alien tubes randomly strewn upright across the planet) suddenly detonated - but her colleagues weren’t as fortunate. The Home Office has plans and sends her off to the Orkney Islands to survey the only British Tree and see if any black flowers have begun to seed (the warning sign for another Blindhail). Across the pond, the new mayor of New York is plotting against those who swept him into office and who had a hand in what happened the day the New York Tree arrived. 

Did you watch Breaking Bad and now follow Better Call Saul? No? This is a book site? Up yours buddy, go slobber over Herman Melville some more! The rest of you: of course you watch those shows or can pretend to. But Better Call Saul? Nowhere near as exciting as BB - BB was B-Ass, amirite?! (What’ve I been drinking…)

Anyways: very, very little happens in Better Call Saul, especially in comparison to Breaking Bad, and yet it’s compelling, well put-together, and damned good in a lo-fi way. And now we’re back to the comix. Because Trees is like that. Very little happens in Two Forests, especially with Creasy who loiters around the gorgeous Orkney Islands not doing much of anything, while the Noo Yawk mayor is basically making Machiavellian plans in the shadows for most of the book, sipping the whiskey so you knows he’s evil. 

But I still really liked it. I was hooked the whole way through because this book is well-written and drawn so it doesn’t matter that not a whole lot seems to be going on - the experience itself is more enjoyable than the summary lets on. 

That’s not to say there’s no excitement either. There’s a big guns-blazing action finale and the flashbacks were really cool too. We get to see Creasy’s breathless escape from Blindhail as it was blowing up (linking directly to the final pages of the last volume), and the day the New York Tree landed was eerie and mesmerising. Ellis also sets up some tantalising future storylines with characters from the first book, Eligia and Zhen, who only get one-page cameos here. 

But I can definitely see some people reading this and wondering when the aliens are gonna show (they still don’t in this book and I hope they never do!). We’re focusing on a scientist in the middle of nowhere and a wannabe mob boss? Git to the ‘splosions and fight for humanity super-dramatic stuff! 

That’s my favourite aspect of this series: how these Trees are the catalyst for everything that happens despite the reader never being told exactly what they are or ever seeing the aliens who made them! The unconventional and unexpected approach to a generic story is inspired, choosing to focus instead on the characters living in the shadow of the Trees and how their presence affects their actions - and Ellis’ way works! 

Jason Howard’s art is consistently fantastic in all areas from the covers to the credits splash page design to the bloody battle and the gorgeous panoramic views of the Orkneys. Little things like new phone and car designs, and self-driving buses effectively indicate this is the near-future subtly and convincingly too. I liked it all very much. 

Two Forests continues the fascinating unfolding story of this strange dystopian world that fans of the first book will certainly enjoy, though I wish Volume 2 was a bit more Breaking Bad than Better Call Saul. Anyway, here’s hoping we don’t have to wait as long for the third book - become a Tree-hugger today and check out this awesome title!

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