It’s been a while since Warren Ellis released a book with Image Comics so we decided to make it special and have another group review! What’s that mean? Well each of the participating writers/reviewers from Comic Bastards will give their own score for the issue followed by their opinion of the issue. Before we begin, here’s a blurb from Image Comics: Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, as if there were no-one here and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognize us as intelligent or alive.
Not knowing what to expect with Trees, I found myself really liking damn near everything about this book. Using the lives of the ensemble cast of characters to show the way that the Trees have changed the way we live is simple and effective. In case that with Jason Howard’s rad art and it’s a win all around. Warren Ellis has an amazing high concept on his hands with Trees. Hell, the premise alone was enough to grab my attention. Now it’s all up to the execution to keep it on track and so far so good!
It might be the coffee talking, but I loved this issue. Sure it kept it simple, but it introduced the spark of so many ideas and plot lines to come. I’m fascinated by the story and so it’s hard to say that it was bad. It wasn’t perfect per say, but Ellis delivers a first issue and a concept that’s unlike any other in comics. What’s even better is that he uses technology that’s been developed, displayed, discussed and thought about in the past year. The catch being that he uses it for military use which frankly is always the first intended use for new technology and I don’t mean faster computers, but rather tech that is actually new.
Hands down my favorite part was the trip to China. It was incredible looking and reminded me of something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I’m sure I’ll think of it as I continue reading, but it’s definitely something anime inspired.
Ellis does what few other writers can. He takes ideas and concepts that are floating out in the world and knits them together for a story that’s unlike anything else. I can’t wait to continue on with this series and hope that there won’t be any interruptions that would prevent it from become a groundbreaking series.
I think the premise for Trees might be my favorite “alien invasion” storyline I’ve ever seen. The aliens invade – okay, that’s a given. But once they invade, they don’t attack. They don’t consume all our resources. They don’t become subservient to us. They just exist. This is their place now, and they well and truly couldn’t give a shit what the world thinks about it. If that’s not an apt metaphor for life in the 21st century in a major metropolis, then goddammit, I don’t know what is.
Ellis and Howard set up three plots in this issue, and I’m all in on two out of three. One of them seems like it’s leaning on some tropes a little too hard, tropes that he manages to avoid in books like Transmet or Moon Knight, even. But who knows, it’s Warren Ellis, established modern master of the medium, and he’s back, babies. It’s not my favorite way he’s ever started a story, but as an established paterfamilias of the medium, he gets enough credit for me to be sold. And Howard’s art... It’s suggestive without being cryptic, and it doles out exactly the right amount of information, which is perfect for this book. In a world where we don’t know what the aliens want, and we may never know, having a control on the release of your narrative information is key.
This book was fast, and it might not seem like it was worth your dollars for the speed, but I have a feeling this is the kind of series whereas the subsequent issues come out, you’re going to want to go back to issue one and reread it several times to see what seeds have been planted (no pun... well, some pun intended) since early on.
Trees wasn’t what I expected. There were some things I enjoyed. Jason Howard gives us an abundance of raw art in Trees’ debut. I loved it! Each page had its own underlying color that showed through each panel. It was dull colors yet vibrant with story. The action was minimal, but I still could see every piece of backstory with each character shown. It is amazing how audiences can picture an apocalyptic battle so easily. Warren Ellis offers a glimpse into a world where A.I. live among us. And although the storyline was rich, it left me high and dry. The world hasn’t ended, but looks like it has gone through some rough times. Even though the theme wasn’t new, I was intrigued to read the story, but it ended so fast.
And there were some things I didn’t enjoy. We really don’t get much more than the above story. It floats around on some characters, but I thought the plot gave the reader a bare glimpse into the world. Most comics should leave the reader with wanting more, but with Trees I felt like I barely got anything to begin with. Sure Howard gave us some gorgeous set ups and Ellis has potential for a captivating story, but dude I want all that now. I don’t want a teaser, but instead the story should have shot me in the face. I should be asking myself a million questions. But I don’t even know what questions to ask after this read.
I love the idea behind Trees, which I mean both as a direct compliment to the book in question, and as a general statement about vegetation. Look, I don’t want to sound like a dendrophiliac or nothin’, but trees kick ass. Unfortunately, though, I’m not so sure I can lend such vehement support to the Ellis/Howard Image collaboration of the same name.
Like I said, I really like this idea of these impossibly huge, nuclear waste-seeping, alien rods (i.e., “trees”) planting themselves into earth, not to mention humanity’s trained complacency with them. I also dig how Ellis and Howard explore the different sides of the planet and how each deals with them, but something specifically about the dialogue bugs me in this book, particularly because I hold the writer of it to a higher standard.
The exposition feels heavy and forced - a trap I know Ellis is guilty of at times (especially at the Mayor’s office and at the Chinese site here), and one that I hope doesn’t continue throughout the series. It also feels like he’s trying to be a bit too “Hickman,” and not just because of the cryptic infographic at the end.
Howard’s art, on the other hand, is beautiful without nearly as many hiccups; powerful, imposing and even terrifying when it needs to be, yet soft and measured when the situation similarly calls for it; something that also is pervasive in his color palette.
I’m still really interested in seeing how this series plays out and its first issue was more than enough to inspire me to jump on, but I do hope that its subsequent issues will tighten up around the great, literally “grounded” science-fiction mystery that’s being put forward, and not just make us all complacent beneath the significant size of its creator’s shadow.
I picked up this book solely on the basis that Warren Ellis was involved, the man has written some great stories in all the companies he has worked for, but this book for me was a miss. The artwork in Trees is beautiful, bright, colorful, great detail, and very consistent in each page. The style used in this book feels very anime and it truly is a treat to look at in this book, but that is where for me the good parts end in this first issue.
The story in Trees is very slow, and jumbled. Nothing that I read made sense, all I could figure out is that Aliens had settled in earth, and that they are dumping their wastes in the earth and every time wastes is dispense parts of earth are destroyed, but you really don’t get this until halfway in the issue, but at that point I had lost interest since Ellis was also trying to start-up the guy who is running for mayor in New York story, and the kids story in China.
While the art is gorgeous in this comic, the story is unfortunately a dud that didn’t really move at all, and it was jumbled with tons of side story that are trying to be jumpstart at the same time with the main story. It felt like nothing was accomplished in this book.
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Jason Howard Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 5/28/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital