Comic Picks By The Glick

Trees vol. 2: Two Forests

October 16, 2016

That we currently have two ongoing series from Warren Ellis after years of miniseries and other short projects from the writer is kind of remarkable.  Unfortunately, it’s clear with this second volume of “Trees” that “Injection” is clearly the stronger of the two.  Fourteen issues into this series and it still has yet to fully click in a way that has me anticipating the (promised) third volume.  As the title implies, there are two main threads in this volume:  The first has biologist Jo Creasy, the sole survivor of the events in the Arctic from vol. 1, being recruited by the British government to investigate the Tree in the Orkney Isles and find out if they have anything to fear from it.  As for the other, it involves the new mayor-elect of New York City, identified only as Vince, and his efforts to get some justice done regarding the police who opened fire on unarmed civilians as they tried to secure the downtown city waterfront the day the Trees came down.  That, and deal with the increasing demands of the “constituency” who helped him get elected.

Jo’s storyline should be more interesting than it is, given that she’s directly investigating the Trees.  The problem there is that remarkably little progress is made towards deciphering their mystery by the end.  Before things wrap up we’re treated to some intriguing notions about the necessity of keeping the public in the dark regarding information about the Trees.  They’re intriguing in the way that they make sense even as they come from a government that can be best described as “sinisterly benign.”  Between Jo’s investigation and interactions with the government, we get to see how she puts up with the daffy members of the archaeological dig near the Orkney Tree.  They’re clearly meant to be comic relief, of which I’ve seen better.  Worse, too.

Vince’s efforts to navigate the political/crime quagmire he has deliberately waded into in New York represent a real missed opportunity in my opinion.  There’s no denying that it’s interesting, and even compelling when the bullets start flying, to see the mayor-elect manipulate the police commissioner and the criminals who helped him get elected to achieve the resolution he wants.  The problem is that this scenario is completely one-sided.  We never see the events of the day, with Vince’s description being our only account of it.  While the actions of the police certainly sound horrific, there’s no attempt to provide their side of the story or any kind of perspective from law enforcement beyond that offered by the commissioner.  Who, I might add, just denies giving such an order or being aware of the events in question.  All this seems as if Ellis was trying to tap into our nation’s current unrest (to put it mildly) regarding law enforcement and wanted to write a story where its bad apples got what was coming to them.  It never quite works because we don’t know enough about these officers to either fully hate them for the actions they took, or feel sympathy for them at being placed in an impossible situation.

Jason Howard is back to provide the art for this volume.  As I said before, while his style isn’t what I’d call “exciting” it still gets the job done with emotive characters that help further engage the readers with the story.  What struck me about his work this time is how well he nails the “near-future” aesthetic of the series.  From the futuristic-looking cars, radar-resistant fabrics, and omnipresent drone technology, Howard really makes it feel like this series is set not too far off from our own.  It’s a small detail, but one that always furthered my interest when I saw this tech in action.

Though the mystery of the Trees is at the center of this series, it’s clear that Ellis isn’t in a rush to solve it.  With vol. 2 his emphasis appears to be on telling interconnected stories set in their shadow.  Hence the title of the first volume (*rimshot*).  That’s not a bad agenda to have for a series.  For it to work, however, you need to have more compelling stories or genuine energy to the uncovering of the mystery.  Both of which are lacking here.

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