Trees #1 Review
“Trees #1 is the perfect balance of riveting social commentary, eerie near-future Science Fiction, and crisp, technically dynamic sequential art.”
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard
Release Date: Wed, May 28th, 2014
I rarely give anything a perfect score. Even if my girlfriend asked me to rate her…she wouldn’t get a 10 out of 10 because I try to be honest and objective. Don’t tell her I said that.
Warren Ellis and Jason Howard have given me quite a bit of pause this past weekend with Trees #1 from Image Comics. Trees #1 is the perfect balance of riveting social commentary, eerie near-future Science Fiction, and crisp, technically dynamic sequential art. Ellis’ work as a comic book creator is an amalgamation of Jules Vern and Philip K. Dick; he is capable of grinding together the strange mystique of Science Fiction with the grit of realism to create a gripping dystopian vision that maintains relevancy within the current sociopolitical zeitgeist of the Western world.
Even when the shit hits the fan and an alien presence roots itself to our world, the global plutocracy will find a way to take advantage as illustrated in this harrowing first issue. Oddly enough, I’m LESS concerned about the strange, black cylinders that pump radioactive goo into the streets below and MORE concerned with the police drones and robot dogs killing several humans in the book. If you’re not already in the know, those robot dogs are very close to becoming a reality.
(I don’t want to imagine being chased by one of these things. Do you? Thanks for the nightmares, guys.)
Another aspect of Trees that I found compelling was the variety of tone amidst the gravitas of the greater story itself. It seems as though Ellis has diffused his voice across several connected characters and plot points and something magical has happened: Trees#1 is “voiceless” in the best way possible. It’s easy for competent readers to read a book by Brian Michael Bendis, Robert Kirkman or Garth Ennis and notice a certain sort of inflection with their characters’ voices or a pattern of diction in their exposition. Ellis is an invisible force that is completely omnipotent in Trees and I really appreciated his ability to create a cohesive world of distinct voices; it gives the book a marked uniqueness among my stack of weekly pamphlets.
Jason Howard’s panel work in Trees #1 evokes a feeling of sophistication reminiscent of Jean Girard (aka Moebius) as his clean, energetic work elevates the aesthetic of the book and also propels the pace of the first issue along at quite a nice clip. I think I had to read Trees #1 two or three times to feel like I was able to take in everything that was packed into its single issue frame. Howard’s work has been elevated by Trees and he has attained a level of brilliance with panel work that is reminiscent of European graphic novels.
My only complaint? I wish it were longer and I cannot wait for Trees #2. Sometimes, I feel like the creators who take their titles to Image Comics would definitely benefit from the length of a double-sized first issue. Understandably, the costs of launching a new, “unknown” concept like Trees could be challenging for unknown talents but I don’t see Warren Ellis or Jason Howard having that issue here. Maybe I just want some need more Trees up front. I was pulled in almost immediately and I did not want to put it down when I was finished with it.
For close readers who like Easter Eggs and embedded symbolism, there is an interesting folk song by Sarah Brightman called “The Trees They Grow So High” being sang by one of the characters in the book that caught my eye. After reading the lyrics to the song, I started realizing that the metaphorical roots of Trees may prove to be as captivating as the actual story itself. If you enjoy quality Science Fiction comics or you are a fan of Ellis and/or Howard, Trees #1 is a MUST BUY. This first issue was just a taste of things to come. We haven’t seen what lurks below the surface or high above the Earth just yet. This is definitely another strong contender from Image Comics; I urge you to run to the LCS today to grab a copy before they disappear.