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Trees Volume 1 Paperback – February 24, 2015
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The book promises to be a detailed, engrossing tale as it unfolds. Ellis's characters are interesting, without a lot of the stereotypes that often permeate his writing. The art from Jason Howard is unique, detailed, and eye-catching.
If you like good science fiction, get this book.
This book does a fine job at showing how the Trees effect different parts of the world and leaves you wondering what their purpose is. The second series will be picking up later this month.
But back to this v1. The appearance of the alien trees reminded me a lot of the excellent SF novel The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson, where similar structures appear, however in Wilson's case they came from the future. In essence they are mysterious but at least in v1 they are largely the backdrop for a set of parallel running stories with a closer focus on people than on the SF. Yes, it is truly a character-driven book (another incidental similarity with Wilson's SF novels), and quite adult in nature. Ellis displays his usual flair for combining intricate narration and big concepts, yet I feel it is more mature than much of his earlier work.
The art is also worth praising, it is more in line with indivdualistic European graphic novels than with the sometimes generic style of American comic books.
I strongly recommend this book, one of the better and more interesting recent comics. Not for the impatient or for those that crave generic comic book action though.
The title is set ten years after the aliens have landed. At least, we think they’re aliens. Honestly, we’re not sure. They come from space. They are hundreds of feet tall. That stand silently upon the earth. They do nothing, they say nothing. They’re just like monolithic poles sticking up out of the ground. People call them trees.
In all the time they’ve been here, they’ve never acknowledged humanity. They’ve never moved. Nothing has ever emerged from inside one. Every so often they spill their waste on the ground where its left to destroy everything in its path. But other than that, they’ve left humanity alone.
If only that indifference were a mutual feeling.
Volume 1: In Shadow, tells the story of several characters living in a world affected by the Trees.
Tian Chenglei is a young painter from a small village who has just moved to the “special cultural zone” of an Asian city near one of the Trees. He’s unsure of the world, feeling like an alien himself, newly landed and alone. He meets up with a young transgender woman who finally, for the first time in Chenglei’s life, makes him feel like he belongs somewhere.
In Italy, Eligia’s boyfriend Tito runs a gang that keeps the town of Cefalu under its thumb until an old man offers to educate her in how the take care of herself without having to rely on the abusive Tito.
And at an arctic research station, Marsh discovers small plants growing near a Tree located by their station. His colleagues want to think it’s nothing, but Marsh knows there’s no possible way these particular flowers could be here. He studies them further and comes to the realization that they might be linked to the Tree in a more intimate way.
Originally, I was reading this series month to month as the issues came out, but I soon found it difficult to grasp from issue to issue. And then when my local shop stopped getting it, I decided to just read it collected in trade, and that really opened the story to me in a whole new way. Connections were made, arcs were revealed, and the book just took on a deeper meaning.
Ellis has never shied away from tackling difficult topics and from what I’ve read, he’s never been one to write down to his audience. TREES is no different. This isn’t some action-packed shoot-em-up with lots of chase scenes and one-liners. TREES is a serious look at some deep subjects, and all with the backdrop of this incredibly mysterious and very frightening thing always looming over the characters. He looks not just at how the people are affected by the Trees and the implication they bring with them, but also at how the world as a whole has moved since they landed.
And then there’s the climax. What a way to end the first arc. If the end to this first collection insures nothing else, it insures I’ll be getting issue #9 when it comes out, even if I have to read it digitally, because there’s no way in the world I’m waiting 8 months for another trade to see what happened next. Those last 16 pages changed every single thing Ellis had set up in the previous pages and I’m dying for more.
But let me not ignore the art by Jason Howard. I never thought I would see someone who was able to make a stick in the ground look so terrifying. Howard gives the Trees a foreboding and a presence that is somehow both grand and intimate at the same time. And while Ellis lets several pages of panels go by in a row with no dialogue, Jason Howard’s art tells the story wonderfully on its own.
I hope Howard is on the book for as long as it runs as his pencils marry so well to Ellis’s words, giving TREES a very unique look among all the other comics that come out every month.
I recommend TREES Vol. 1: In Shadow to anyone who loves a good read and isn’t afraid of a book that’s smarter than they are.