Review: TREES #4


Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Howard
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: August 20, 2014

Trees is a science fiction comic book series about an alien presence that landed on earth and has been standing in dominion of their locations for ten years like fabled, gigantic trees. This alone has informed humanity that they are no longer alone in the universe, but for ten years these “trees” just stood there doing nothing. This issue follows Chenglei and Zhen as they explore the Chinese city of Shu, a city that was built under a tree, a discovery by the scientist Marsh as he determines to find meaning in their presence, and the latest news of military action against one.

What this issue of Trees succeeds in doing is bringing a much more humanized version of this cast of characters. Ellis does a great job of ensuring that character backstories and their integrities shine through in this issue, more so than in previous issues. In spite of the premise, the characters in this issue feel a bit more relatable. Zhen has been looking for a fresh start, while Chenglei is looking for a place to belong, and Marsh is desperately longing for his purpose in life.

All of these sentiments are very human in nature, yet all of them are influenced by the presence of the trees. Warren Ellis flexes his ability to write convincing dialogue and gently elevate it towards natural story progression. He is slowly blooming the main cast members and trying to give us a semblance of concerned interest for these characters as we trepidatiously unravel the mystery behind the ominous “trees” that lurk in the cities around the world.

Part of the relatability for this issue is artist Jason Howard’s ability to convincingly render human emotion on the page. There is a six-panel page that demonstrates his ability to create wonderfully pensive thoughts and that work is similarly displayed throughout the entire issue. Howard brings a boldness and hard-edged style to his art that could fall under the category of being gritty, Japanese manga. The combination is quite visually pleasant as Howard’s color pallete is muted and subdued in it’s tones and detract from coming off as flashy versions of either manga or pop art.

What I like most about this series is the patience of the storytelling. While readers are given only the smallest amount of information in regards to the trees, their looming threat is what has been hanging over the human race’s head for ten years. Some characters have adapted and forgot, others are still suspicious, and others still have a curiosity to fulfill.

There’s an immediacy to typical invasion stories in science fiction, but this series decides to go the opposite direction. Instead of giving into the allure of the trees themselves, Ellis is gently coaxing you into seeing just how a direful, yet seemingly docile, alien presence can stoke the fires of varying emotions within humanity. That assuredly won’t stay that way for next issue.

The Verdict: 8.0/10



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