Trees by Warren Ellis is one of those high concept graphic novels that is intellectually written that will leave some readers in awe and others confused. Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers. His superhero stuff is always top notch after all he did write one of my favorite books of last year. Ellis’s writing is usually laden with wit and is layered enough to offer something beyond the surface story, but here I think he’s bitten off more bark then he could chew. (haw haw see what i did there….eh)
The story is essentially a bunch of monstrous “Trees” that are mute alien invaders appear out of know where and take root on earth. They are giant pillars, reaching past the clouds and nobody knows what they do. the story asks: can anything good grow under the shadow of a tree? the answer is mixed: in China, a new San Francisco/counter culture is born as queers and free thinkers of all stripes flock to a city that the Chinese government allows (for now). Then there is a fascist gang in Italy that is at odds with a unknown enemy. Finally there is the arctic where strange black/metallic flowers grow around the the tree.
Sounds a bit complicated? or a tad to much for a story? well that’s probably because it is. The main problem with this book is that it goes all over the place and it doesn’t hold my attention. It switches between a lot of characters and focuses too much on them rather then the story itself. When it finally does focus back on the story the book basically ends.
It’s a big letdown and will leave the reader frustrated. Still this book has some great moments from both Ellis and Jason Howard (illustrator). Howard’s work is solid on this project and there are moments that really stun me with his art. Ellis also brings a very humanistic approach to the book. Its progressive Ellis shows that he appreciates young people and, with this book at least, has an advocate’s perspective when it comes to gender and sexual orientation. Its a nice touch and doesn’t come off strong in a political/personal opinion sense.
I’d say give this book a shot. Its not for everyone but it is good. Ellis is a very talented writer and one of the best comic book writers in the past decade. He communicates with a great sense of passion in his work, and this book is no different. However I just wish I knew what the hell was going on.