Warren Ellis is UK based writer of comics (Transmetropolitan, Freakangels, amongst others), books, and is dabbling in film work, too (RED was based on one of his stories, and had his involvement). Note to those not familiar with him (yet, you should be!) – this is not the Warren Ellis playing the violin in Nick Cave's The Bad Seeds, although he sports a similarly impressive beard...
The album at hand, called Trees, Volume One: In Shadow is a collection of the first 8 issues of the on-going series Trees; written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Jason Howard. Number 1 was published in spring 2014, number 8 in January 2015, with this collection hard on its heels.
The setting is simple – this is a world which has been invaded by aliens, and has ever so slightly come apart at the seams as a result of that. Not completely, you see, as this is not your vanilla alien invasion, but out of whack with a slightly post-apocalyptic feel, nevertheless.
As the opening sequence, overlaid over a brutal police raid in Rio against a group flying smart phones on a kite (the rationale is not explained, but I'm sure you can come up with a number of scenarios for what this could be useful for!) states:
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 they did not recognize us as intelligent
They stand on the surface of the Earth like trees
exerting their silent pressure on the world
as if there were no-one here.
The setting, and the way humanity reacted to it (one review of an early issue likened it to the way an anthill reacts if you stick a branch into it... panic, manic activity, and then integration of the new structure) is ever so reminiscent of Fredric Brown's story Pattern. And if it turns out to be nothing more than an extended treatment of that story, seen through the prism of Ellis' mind then I'd still happily buy it – but I suspect there will be more, much more.
The album contains a number of threads, each centred on one of the trees - Rio de Janeiro, Mogadishu, New York City, The City of Shu (I think that's a fictitious city in China), and Spitsbergen. Some are more developed than others, but all tell us something about the trees, and what the they do, through their mere presence, to the people who remain living in their shadows (or, in the case of Spitsbergen, include them in their research). One thing that's notable is that, for the people who survived the appearance of the Trees, and didn't/couldn't leave subsequently (as many did), life has become harder, rougher, more violent, with something of a desperate edge to it - but somehow also simpler, I feel. Humanity stripped back to some underlying layer? Desires definitely become more apparent, and easier to attain.
I'm not going to spill more of the story – it's very much worth getting this yourself, and immersing yourself in this world. Jason Howard's illustrations are wonderfully detailed, evocative, and sometimes whimsical. The only complaint I really have is that some of his characters looks quite same-y to me, which can make some pages confusing and in need of re-reading once I've realised who is who (or not); but that might just be me.
Oh, and of course, I'd like to complain that book two is not out yet. I mean, come on, what is going to happen next?!
More Warren Ellis
Title: Trees, Volume One: In Shadow
Author: Warren Ellis
Illustrator: Jason Howard
Series Number: 1
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Image Comics
Publisher URL: http://www.imagecomincs.com
Publication Date: Feb 24 2015
Review Date: 150321
Topic: Alien Invasion
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.