Friday, 13 June 2014

New Beginnings - Trees #1

by Matt Puddy

In Ellis we trust is a phrase Ben and I have often said in store in reverent tones, but this time I’m not so sure. (I was! I bloody loved this first issue! BF

Collaborating with Jason Howard, Ellis has brought us Trees, a new science fiction comic set shortly in the future. 

The opening is full of mystery. Strangely huge tall structures land on Earth and then stand silent watching over the world. Dubbed “trees” for their trunk-like appearance, they have faded into everyday life after ten years of doing nothing.

Over this time humanity has tried to investigate and attack the trees but gained nothing. It is only the occasional dumping of waste from the trees, an act which is terrifying and destructive to all and everything surrounding the tree, that shows that there is something occurring within. Mankind cannot see what that is though, but the trees see all. The only problem is that whereas man has learnt that they are not alone in the galaxy, that same being doesn’t seem to even recognise us as intelligent or alive.

So what is this all about then? The rest of the comic introduces a variety of seemingly distant individuals, who I would guess all play different integral parts in the story to come later.

We have the young, cocky and power hungry mayoral candidate who sees this all as a potential situation to take advantage of. There's the young artist entering the city of Shu and being exposed to a whole new world of experiences, and a pair of researchers isolated in the cold wastes of North Spitzbergen – one of which has found a strange new flower in the snow. Fitting them all into this first issue has meant the story is spread thinly across them all, and only works as an introduction but not much else. All we are presented with by the end is a strange slightly futuristic society with an almost forgotten threat waiting in plain sight.

As a result I’m really not sure about this one. When I came to the end of this first issue, I honestly expected there to be more story. Instead it abruptly ended with a statement proclaiming more about things being the normal status, possibly a system message from the trees themselves. With the exception of some bizarre sights, normal has certainly been achieved. My only hope is that this "normal" is going to get dramatically and/or drastically blown apart.

As I mentioned earlier Jason Howard (who is known for working on Image titles with people such as Robert Kirkman) takes to the pencils. Firstly the cover image I thought was cracking. A strong depiction of the duality of a situation, with a cityscape backed with a crimson sky all underpinned by the roots of a tree that twist together and around to depict a skull. Foreshadowing at its finest as well then perhaps? Once inside the comic the artwork changes to a more subtle style. There is a wide range of characters and interactions as well as some realistic but with some great futuristic ideas such as the robot hounds the police are using. It keeps one foot in the present day, with the other reaches ahead without edging too far outside the realms of reality. A nice touch I felt. The frames are very easy to read and people shown, pivotal or not, display a wide range of emotions and faces. There is more passed over about the living and lifestyle in the artwork than the written plot, which is interesting and proof of the strength of comics as a narrative medium. The crowning piece for me though was the image used almost at the end of the comic to promote issue #2, which combines a hinted at aspect of the trees with an almost silhouette of an unknown male.

I like Warren Ellis’s work so I want to like this comic but on this occasion, based only on this issue I’m struggling. I’ve come to expect more and I hope there is more to come. Maybe issue #2 will win me over.

Matt Puddy still urges you to give Trees a go and make your own mind up!

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