Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival holds a special place in my heart. Too often, science fiction does not live up to its potential to be more than just dystopias, aliens, and giant robots. So when Arrival came along and told a beautiful, tragic story about one woman’s experience when humanity makes first-contact, I fell in love.
Prior to the release of Arrival, friends had tried to sell me on Trees. But with so many good books coming out all of the time, Trees always fell to the wayside. Then Arrival happened, and it became the instant comparison for Trees, which sold me immediately. And while this books doesn’t quite live up to Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece, it’s a pretty great invasion story.
Title: Trees vol. 1
Storytellers: Warren Ellis & Jason Howard
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of Publication: 2015
Page Count: 160
Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, 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 recognize us as intelligent or alive.
SPOILERS FOR TREES VOL. 1 BELOW
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing
Like Brian K. Vaughn with Pride of Baghdad, Warren Ellis is a master of characterization in Trees. The opening of the book moves like the opening scenes of a typical Hollywood disaster movie. The reader is introduced to different people in different places. Quickly, these characters reveal information about the alien invasion that occurred 10 years ago (getting the reader up to speed) and give their unique feelings on the situation.
Through varying devices and strategies, Ellis is able to introduce his cast while building his work. Masterfully, he does so simultaneously while bouncing the reader around the world.
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art
Stepping away from interior art for a day, I’d like to talk about Howard’s covers for this series. They’re simple yet striking, well-designed, and like so many Image series they make incredible use of white space.
For the first issue, in particular, Howard captures the essence of the story visually, without detailing plot points or even showing a character. One of the titular Trees extends upward from a city skyline, while below the Earth its roots dig deep and are designed to create the foreboding image of a skull. Howard shows a potential reader everything he or she needs to know about the series: Aliens have come. They’ve planted these massive “trees.” And there’s danger.
Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)
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