Living In The Shadows: Should You Be Reading ‘Trees’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
The last few years have been incredible for big, smart sci-fi comics. Saga, Copperhead, Kaptara, Nameless, Lazarus, Southern Cross... and those are just the ones coming out of Image. If you're a fan of anything alien, dystopic, robotic or just forward-looking, you have a lot of options. Equally, though, it can be difficult to make room for another space book, but Trees stands tall even in that crowded field. (Yes, that was a tree pun.)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
"Ten years after they landed. All over the world, as if there were no-one here. And they did nothing, and did not speak, as if there were no-one here, and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned, that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognise us as intelligent, or alive."
These are the stark, memorable words that Trees opens with, and they're pretty hard to beat as a summary of the set-up. The 'trees' are enormous alien entities that have made our planet their home, and the book uses that backdrop to tell half a dozen stories about how people live at the bases of trees across the globe. A vengeful mayoral candidate in New York, a young artist fresh to a designated 'cultural zone' in China, a team of scientists investigating a tree in the Arctic Circle, and a few other strands are all woven together to create a patchwork picture of the world.
WHO'S IT BY?
Warren Ellis might just be the best science fiction writer this medium has ever seen. From Transmetropolitan to Iron Man: Extremis, FreakAngels to Global Frequency, Ellis' sci-fi work alone is strong enough to rival most other writers' entire bibliographies.
Jason Howard is probably best known for his work with Robert Kirkman on Super Dinosaur and The Astonishing Wolf-Man. Given the cartoony bombast of those titles, it might come as a surprise just how human his art is in Trees. There's something in the sparseness of Howard's line that seems to take the fantastical world for granted --- which, like the story, keeps every page rooted in the characters.
The two first collaborated on Scatterlands, a daily webcomic that ran for just 25 single-panel pages in 2013, but there was a clear chemistry, and it's great to see them grow that into something bigger.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
While Trees is technically an alien invasion story, it's not exactly War of The Worlds or Independence Day. The trees are dangerous, no doubt --- we see entire cities crushed, or drowned in the the acidic sap that that leaks from their miles-high trunks --- but they're not the villain of the piece. Instead, the book is interested in how humans adapts, how society grows around the external forces we can't control --- and, ultimately, how little it changes.
Trees shows us police firing on civilians, fascist gangs preying on homophobia, the British Isles' fear of migrants. It also shows us love, workplace squabbles, the difficulties and joys of navigating your sexuality.
While the series is structured to read as a seamless whole when collected, Trees is worth reading in issues because the short turn-around in creation and publishing means it feels like a book about today, that just happens to be set tomorrow.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Trees is a grown-up book about humans, featuring aliens and the odd robot. Just about any grown-up human (or robot, or alien) should be able to find something to enjoy in it.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
A single volume of Trees, collecting the first eight issues of the series, is available on Comixology or from your local comic store. The second volume is currently being released in monthly issues by Image.