I figured it out. At least I think I did. I’m referring to what Trees is about. I know that in reading our past reviews and other people’s views of the series some are completely lost and others find the disconnected narratives confusing or worse… pointless. Others like it because it’s different and let’s be honest, because Warren Ellis is writing it. There’s nothing worse than missing out on a Warren Ellis comic book just because you didn’t understand it… said some hipster somewhere. Here’s what I think Ellis is doing with the narrative and I could be very wrong, but to me he’s telling multiple stories in different types of genres at the same time. It’s one world event for sure, but then when he shifts to a character that the story is following the narrative becomes that of a different genre. It came to me after I read Zaya (which is also out this week from Magnetic Press).
For instance our arctic story has more of a scientific horror vibe going on. In some ways due to their isolation it’s like a space station. Our young artist in China is more in line with an anime story with its style and humor, but also its focus on the beauty of the Trees. I’m still figuring out some of the genres myself so I’m not going to speculate much more, but I really think that’s what’s happening in this series. The genre is changing and so the narrative is changing and if you don’t know that then it’s frustrating. The important thing to keep in mind is that each genre still has Ellis’ twist to them.
This issue we begin by following Tian Chenglei as he’s lead out into the city for the first time since arriving. It’s been one week and already he seems changed by the experience of just being there. After an encounter that reveals that his guide Zhen is a trangender and Ellis handles this with the utmost care and respect; Chenglei’s story becomes even more interesting. The genre may also be switching for this one or I could just be off with my initial take. Coming of age maybe?
Ellis’ dialogue is what really drives each narrative. I already found the different narratives interesting because it showed how the world at large was handling the Trees. This is a global story which is being handled masterfully by Ellis. Granted he doesn’t check in with each character, each issue which I’m sure annoys some, but he checks in and continues their story when needed. That’s the big difference with this story compared to other tales I’ve read that have followed a lot of characters experiencing the same event. It makes for sharper plot progression and you never know which characters you’ll see in the next issue. It also keeps the story from being rushed which is what I find usually happens.
As much as I go on and on about Ellis’ story, Jason Howard’s visuals are what make this world come alive. The subtle way he changes the coloring for each storyline assures that we are in a different part of the world at a different time of day. Howard shines especially bright when he shows Chenglei blocking out Zhen’s conversation. The depiction is so wonderful that you can almost hear the white noise that he’s generating for himself. It also serves to illustrate his feeling of isolation and the fact that he hasn’t found people that he feels are like him. All that just from two panels. That’s what an amazing talent Howard is and why he’s the right fit for this story.
I could be wrong and even if I am it’s not going to change how damn good this story is. It might end up being a story that you love or hate, but I think with some time people might see what it’s doing and come around on it. I would also recommend that you take all four issues and read them back to back. I read issue two through four for this review and it wasn’t like reading single issues but rather a fluid narrative. That’s not to say that it’s writing for the trade either, just that this story is fluid and will keep going regardless of page count. If you’ve lapsed on Trees give it another shot and if you’re still sticking with it then hopefully my review has shed some light for you. And if you’re just enjoying it as much as I am… then need I say more?
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Jason Howard Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 8/20/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital