Warren Ellis – Writer
Jason Howard – Artist
Fonografiks – Letterer
Review by Joey Braccino
Ten years after they landed…
Trees is a classic Warren Ellis sci-fi dystopian comic serial grounded in high concepts, disturbing realism, and big questions. The premise is simple: ten years ago, giant, extraterrestrial towers fell to Earth and embedded themselves into the ground. These towers—now called Trees—reach high into the sky and, occasionally, ooze biohazardous materials and flood the city streets. Since the trees fell, society has essentially fallen apart and, mysteriously, the authorities have done little to remedy the ailing population.
Not only does Ellis drop us right into Rio de Janeiro as rebels (?) fight back against the Pacification Police, but he also drops us into a New York City mayoral campaign, a Cultural Zone in China, and a science station in Spitzbergen in rapid fashion. While spanning the globe is a necessary step in establishing the far-reaching impact and influence of the Trees, it leaves little time for Ellis to really give us any recognizable characters over the course of the first issue. Tian Chenglei (the one character whose name I recalled at the end of the issue) gets enough individual attention, but he’s also the focus of the trippier sequence in China. And still, Chenglei’s story is so detached from the larger Tree-conflict that it’s difficult to place him alongside the other characters.
The lack of clear characters, however, does not detract from the larger operational themes at work in Ellis’ piece, and the result is an intriguing opening to a promising story. Larger questions of ecological devastation, political corruption, and cultural decadence drive the first issue and promise interesting developments down the line. Oh, and aliens, sooooo…
Jason Howard’s scratchy realism is reminiscent of a more vintage, ‘90s aesthetic. Think Larry Stroman or Whilce Portacio, except with a significantly more expansive scope. Howard handle colors as well, and it’s the dynamic palette—particularly the vibrant greens and yellows—that really establishes the sci-fi tenor of the new series.
Worth a look! There’s something incredibly enticing about Warren Ellis cutting loose with a creator-owned sci-fi comics series. Sure, the debut issue is a bit of a drop in the deep end of the helter-skelter, eco-dystopian pool, but the tone and the concept is definitely there for what could be a promising new series. Also, Image is pitching itas the first chapter in a new “graphic novel” and Ellis has been vocal about his hope to turn this into a “long-term” project, so I’m sure the world of Trees will be expanded and explored for quite a while. Check it!