Story: Warren Ellis
Art: Jason Howard
What They Say:
Something is happening. There are shadows in the Chinese city of Shu, shadows falling across Cefalu and Puntland, and shadows crawling across the snows of Svalbard. Things are getting darker.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Over the seven issues of the series prior to this, Ellis and Howard have built up a world that we’ve managed to connect with in a good way. Working the approach of a novel by introducing multiple places and characters, you saw the beginnings of what could be going on in a world with these massive Trees having crashed into it and then going silent for a decade. How complacent would people get? What would they do? How would it change the political and military dynamic of the world? Through the cast we got introduced to along the way, you became surprisingly invested in it, or at least in some of the characters and locations, but you were also left wondering how it was all going to interconnect at some point and what these people would end up doing that would either influence each other indirectly or directly.
And then you get this issue that basically gives you the impression that we’re in chapter one and haven’t really established anything yet. There are several characters touched upon here and some of it really alters the landscape. The story with Chenglei is definitely the harshest of them all as we’ve now spent time with him and Zhen connecting and even starting here with her talking to her friends about how he really sees her and is so different from other relationships she has. That she’s doing this as he races there to warn her about the impending doom of the “Experiment” city in that it’s about to be cleansed raises the tension beautifully. But then the hammer drops and the bodies fly, the blood soaks the ground and, from space through the satellites, all anyone else sees from this distant location is dust rising. Chenglei’s story, so full of hope and brightness for the future, ends. How that leaves Zhen, if she really does survive it, will be even harder to watch.
Similarly, we get more time with Eligia and Luca, where the time they’ve spent together has really prepared her for what she wants to do to survive. She’s taken over completely off-panel from Tito and the Great Work that was being done and there’s a really good kind of quiet between her and Luca throughout it, a kind of quiet respect as he talks a bit about his past and what kinds of services he worked for. The relationship between the two has really worked well in a master/student way, but it presents the kind of graduation that doesn’t exactly surprise you, as she frees him of his mortal coil, but it still saddens you even though you know, from their perspective on all of this, that it’s the right thing to do.
This issue also gives us a couple of pages from the characters in New York, who I don’t think we’ve seen since the first issue, and you get a sense that they’re just about to step onto the stage next. What really dominates in this feeling of changes going on in this issue though is that we get the culmination of events so far in Norway as Marsh and his team have been airlifted out, but just a little bit too late as the expansion of the plants and the problem they’re causing has reached critical mass. Theres a great moment as you see Marsh unhappy about having to leave all of this since he’s invested so much in it and wants to have things be meaningful in his life. That frustrates the hell out of others, especially when the cataclysmic results of it are revealed and he’s grinning like a fool as they’re spinning towards potential death. A little house cleaning before the next installment?
This installment of Trees takes the word changes and applies it liberally across the page. We’ve had a lot of world and character building so far and it became very easy to become invested in these characters because of how it did it and what we were seeing across different areas. But here, it takes a big hammer to it all and shatters it, making us wonder where it will go next, how these events will refine certain characters and what the next stage of it all will be. Ellis has managed to really make us care for people here and to be in shock just as they are as things go down. And that’s made all the more believable with the visual design that Howard has brought to the page, from the cleansing at the start to the tree going bright at the end. With the big moments and the small, this team has made this a must-read book.
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Image Comics
Release Date: January 7th, 2015