[25 June 2014]
Here’s what we know: Ten years ago, the Trees landed on Earth and planted roots. Giant tower-like organic structures that dwarfed any skyscraper mankind had to offer. The Trees are intelligent life that fail to recognize humans as anything more than parasites, if that. It’s the ultimate nature fights back tale. Except these Trees are invading from space.
From the very start, Trees doesn’t ease you into this world. It drops you right in with very little frame of reference, just as suddenly as earth found itself occupied with uninvited guests. Skip forward ten years and we see the world as it has evolved since.
The exposition-free dialogue flows naturally and hints at backstories that have yet to be unveiled. Trees doesn’t cater to the reader’s desire for answers, instead it drops in small doses of information at a time, just enough to quench your thirst but without filling you up. It can be frustrating only because the time it takes to get to know these characters is so spaced out that it makes trade waiting more appealing for a series such as this. This is due to the esoteric nature of the material where you find yourself eavesdropping on a conversation and you’re not privy to the details, which results in feeling left in the cold. But with any serialized story there’s understandably going to be a reasonable amount of set up which will most likely be followed through on. It’s obvious a lot of pre-planning went into Trees, fleshing out the motley crew and their world.
There was a little bit of action at the start of the last issue to kick off the chaos but none to speak of here. It’s very talky and has high concept written all over it. A thinking man’s comic. I would expect no less from a Warren Ellis series. To summarize, the majority of this issue was a bunch of scientists discussing a puzzling flower growth and the president of Somalia telling a journalist about how he plans to use a Tree to his advantage. Not much of a hook on paper, but it’s the way it’s told that you can’t help but find it compelling. It demands to be taken seriously because it feels so real and lived in. The panic of the invasion of the Trees has long since passed and you just accept it because the people you meet are completely nonchalant about it. This is the new normal.
Jason Howard’s art is subtle with muted colors, producing a bleak existence (in the best possible way) but also lending it a sense of realism. There is excellent attention to detail, such as the crop circle configuration that appears anywhere from a mysterious black flowers to a stranger’s notepad. Little touches such as these are proof that an artist’s contributions are more than just storytelling through characters “acting” but also set design, wardrobe, lighting, and framing. Basically the art and camera department all rolled into one. Howard succeeds in making us believe in an unbelievable world.
Trees is unapologetically a slow burn and that’s ok. If action is what you crave, there’s no shortage of that on the stands. It is a true original, offering something no other comic does. It behooves you to re-read it and collect clues (especially from the previous issue), which you didn’t know were clues but it turns out they were foreshadowing something bubbling beneath the surface. It’s all in the details and every scene counts. For that reason, it’s hard to criticize Trees for taking its time to really push the plot forward as there is clearly something on the horizon, but it wouldn’t hurt to pick up the pace in future issues as too much set up can alienate an audience before it has time to build. It’s too early into Trees for it to be spinning its wheels and hopefully by next issue it will seal the deal and deliver a solid cliffhanger, which this issue lacks.
This isn’t The Day the Earth Stood still and it isn’t trying to be. There are no traditional aliens or androids that we can put a name and face to and try to humanize in some shape or form. The Trees are giants that don’t speak and you can’t predict their next move, and somehow that makes them even scarier. If there is any chance of unlocking the key to communication, perhaps the Trees are trying to tell us something with those strange patterns emerging. There is still much to be revealed…
What keeps us hanging on is the promise that things are about to take shape as the mystery continues to build. We’re forced to put our faith in Ellis’ master plan because while it’s too soon to tell where this is going, clearly the man has a vision. What can’t be denied is that Trees sticks out. It sticks out like a mile high tree in the middle of Manhattan and refuses to be ignored.
Watch your back Groot, you’re not the only Tree from space in comics anymore.