Trees Volume 3, published by Image Comics, is written by Warren Ellis and features art by Jason Howard. The colors are by Dee Cuniffee and Fonografiks provides the lettering. It has been three years since we have gotten anything related to Trees, so seeing a new story related to that universe is quite welcome. However, the five issues collected in this volume do not necessarily continue the story from the original series.
The original Trees series jumped around to different locations on Earth and followed different characters, but Trees Volume 3 focuses on the small town of Toska, Russia. The story begins eleven years ago as the main character, Klara is having an argument with her boyfriend, Sasha who is standing outside. Too busy arguing, they don’t notice the trees descending from the sky, until Sasha is seemingly crushed by one that lands in front of Klara’s home. The story then shifts to the present as a man named Lev is knocking on Klara’s door to let her know that a dead body has been found near one of the Trees. Klara must then solve this mystery as she begins to have visits from Sasha’s ghost.
By the end of the first chapter, the reader has a general sense of who was involved in the murder, but Klara still has to figure out the how and the why. Ellis weaves an interesting tale, that doesn’t fit into just one genre. It’s part sci-fi story, part murder mystery, and part love story. But the majority of the story felt like the murder mystery was just a backdrop for Klara as she works through her feelings over her relationship with Sasha which ended abruptly in a moment of anger. It is the relationship story that really feels genuine throughout Trees Volume 3. In fact, one of my favorite scenes is a flashback where Klara and Sasha first meet at a bar, and he talks to her about the philosopher/writer, Sartre. It’s a minor scene but it feels like a palpable scene between two characters sharing drinks while getting to know each other, especially if one of them considers himself a “thinker” like Sasha. There are also ideas shared by Sasha in that coincidentally connect to the mystery of the Trees. Ellis’ dialogue is as snappy as it has always been, especially in the scene where a drunken Oleg flings insults at Mik. Ellis has always been great at writing characters berating each other.
But if all you do is pay attention to the mystery or the romance, you miss a deeper theme like a town being kept pastoral and without too much intrusion from modernization other than some basic necessary technology like cell phones and the internet. The hints of this theme are sprinkled throughout the dialogue and the artwork. In the dialogue, characters talk about coming to Toska to get away from a big city like Moscow. There will be mention of the difficulties they have with getting cell phone reception and internet connections in Toska. In this small secluded town, the main way things get to and from there is through a train the stops at the on rail station there. The majority of the people there also seem to walk or bike to get from one place to another.
Jason Howard’s artwork adds to this theme by drawing a town surrounded by open green land and (actual) trees. Some technology just looks out of place in the town of Toska. For example, a robot that is used to take forensic samples or a cellphone tower near a wooded area really don’t seem to belong there. I have always liked Howard’s artwork because it looks like sketches that he just finished drawing, but they are so much more detailed. But the real stand out of his artwork in this volume is his use of landscapes. You get great examples of this on pages six and seven. On page six, a Tree is at the foreground while the reader gets an aerial view of the town. Meanwhile, on page seven Jason gives the reader another aerial view of the town, but even then you see a few trees in the distance and the shadow of a Tree overcasts part of the town. But in those aerial views, you also see the small houses below, fences, the railroad running through the town along with the shrubbery and trees.
There are a lot of panels that do not involve any talking, and Jason makes it difficult to just glance past a panel with a train resting in front of a rail station, or land behind characters as they make their way to another location. Cuniffee’s colors complemented Howard’s artwork well. The green around the town was not bright, it felt just right for a story with a burg that is clinging to the serenity of small country town life.
It is a great story set in the same world as the original series, but Trees Volume 3 is contained to Toska, Russia and Klara, far away from what many of the other characters were dealing with around the world. As a reader, you might feel a bit disappointed because the mystery in regards to the murder is not drawn out for you, but as I said, this story is more than just about the mystery, it’s about Klara and her realization that it’s been eleven years since Sasha’s death and she has yet to let go. That and the larger themes I mentioned earlier. It’s another great story from Ellis and Howard whether you are a fan of Trees or even if you are new to this world because you can read it as a stand-alone story without needing to know too much about the previous series. But there is a minor payoff for readers from the series since we get just a bit more insight into the mystery of the Trees, but it is at most a crumb.
Trees Volume 3 is available where comics are sold.
Trees Volume 3
It’s another great story from Ellis and Howard whether you are a fan of Trees or even if you are new to this world because you can read it as a stand-alone story without needing to know too much about the previous series. But there is a minor payoff for readers from the series since we get just a bit more insight into the mystery of the Trees, but it is at most a crumb.