Trees #1 Review

It’s been a decade since the pillars came down from the sky and overwhelmed the Earth beneath it. A decade since humankind was made aware of intelligent life beyond their home planet. A realization that came with destruction at the whim of beings who have deemed our kind completely superfluous and expendable. Giant structures climb out from the centre of cities all across the planet and as their roots take hold on the world around it, humanity is snuffed away in an instant just as we would swat away an insignificant and unintelligent fly.

This is the new normal.

From one of the most powerful and important voices in comics and a tremendously talented and exciting visual artist comes Trees, an alien invasion, doomsday comic that charts the eerie and powerful existence of otherworldly entities as they slowly swallow civilization. Charting the overwhelming presence of these mysterious ‘trees’ across the entire planet and displaying the new status quo for humans, this comic presents a grim new landscape with a wide view. Introducing a lot of content in these mere 22 pages, Trees travels across the globe, developing multiple stories, environments and characters that all add to the overall mosaic of the now paranoid and submissive human species. So much is accomplished in this first issue as the dire climate is established, several viewpoints are explored and drama, intrigue and personality are on display. Curiosity is a main hook throughout but enough of the plot and themes are presented to actually round out the first issue as a significant chapter of the series to come and not just a teaser trailer for a much larger picture.

Warren Ellis has produced a level of quality comics that should herald him amongst the giants of the industry like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore and he continues to produce some of the more bold and entrancing books on the shelves. Transmetropolitan was an angry, punk sci-fi epic at home at Vertigo Comics with the episodic and thought provoking Global Frequency. Stormwatch, the Authority and Planetary are powerful and unique takes on Hero and mainstream comics that once again turned the genre on its head. His short but incredible run on Hellblazer was one of the best in the series as it was a terrifying character piece that explored the demons of society and the ghosts that still haunt us. Again and again Ellis creates comics that propel the medium to new heights and with his new Image title Trees, his twisted and bitter, lager-soaked brain promises to deliver another gem in the mountain of great work he has done over the years. He fits so much content, world building and character into this first chapter, finding new ways to frighten and mesmerize you with an alien invasion, science fiction tale. Ellis’ name on a cover has always meant an instant buy from me and this first issue of Trees should explain why I always trust in his skill and talent. His stories are dark, empowering, human and imaginative and Trees has all of these aspects already one issue in.

Jason Howard’s artwork is an incredibly detailed and creative style that I am glad to have been exposed to through this new series. His work before includes Super Dinosaur with Robert Kirkman and the first chapter of the digital Scatterlands also with Warren Ellis. Line heavy and expressive character designs emote strongly in the panels and his depictions of multiple cultural hubs simply laid to waste by hulking columns that burst through the ground and endlessly into the sky are deadly beautiful. His colour work and self inking really round out the whole flow of the book and keep the tones consistent making for a really fluid read. His action panels are adeptly laid out and throughout the comic certain subtle panels are delivered so slick that their impact is even more jarring, particularly a sequence involving a wide-eyed, naive artist as he explores his new surroundings in the City of Shu. Travelling to the special cultural zone to examine the Trees and the world that exists around them to paint and perhaps broaden his perspective he bares witness to a quick and shocking revelation of one of the tenants that wakes him up and makes him realize that he has landed on a different planet entirely than he is used to. Next we are introduced to a vast and alarming view of Spitzbergen where the mountainous ice and cold is apparent all the while still giving birth to some mysterious life beneath the snow surrounding the Trees.

Warren Ellis and Jason Howard team up to produce an incredibly interesting and powerful first issue to a new series that combines the dread of District 9 and War of the Worlds with a planet spanning series of vignettes constructing a blockbuster level tapestry of the new normal.