Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Howard
Published by Image Comics
It’s hard to know what to make of this series. On the one hand, this issue has a lot more going on in terms of dialogue and exposition, and the premise of human life going on around the extraterrestrial is interesting.. On the other hand, there still isn’t much action happening in this book. Perhaps Warren Ellis is simply planning a slow-burn comic book that will eventually explode, or perhaps he wants to tell a story at an unusual pace. The book is offering tantalizing ideas of stories to tell, but at the moment, they’re nothing but glimpses of things that could happen.
Most of the issue focuses on the research group in Svalbard. One of the researchers, Marsh, has taken notice of the unusual black poppies growing on their research drone. He points out that their nothing native to the region and don’t resemble any of the local poppies. Marsh asks one of the new researchers, Dr. Creasy, to keep an eye out for any others. In Italy, a young woman and her fascist-sympathizer boyfriend have a strange encounter with a man near one of the Trees. In Mogadishu, the president of the Somali Republic meets with a journalist to discuss how a Tree has changed the balance of power in the country to favor a different region of the country. The issue ends with Dr. Creasy and Marsh discussing the mysterious black poppies.
Thus far, Trees has been the most interesting when discussing how these alien structures have changed human life. For example, the storyline in Somalia is interesting because it illustrates how the presence of a Tree can change regional politics dramatically. What makes this issue frustrating to read are the scenes which do not relate to the Trees or their effect on daily life. The entire sequence in Italy comes across off as confusing to read, as there are no hints that the Tree has had any impact in the region. The fact that the woman’s boyfriend is part of some far-right fringe group seems wholly unrelated to the Tree or alien life (this has been happening in the last few years without aliens around), and the encounter with the man likewise feels like it came out of nowhere. Image Comic’s promo for this issue says that the town of Cefalu has an occult past, which I eventually discovered was because Aleister Crowley had a commune there in the 1920s. This was not touched upon at all in the issue.
What’s going on in Svalbard is also interesting yet problematic. The idea that the Trees might have some other purpose or could be affecting the ecosystem is intriguing. Marsh and to a lesser extent the other researchers are the only characters we’ve spent significant time with, and it’s nice to see them being developed into people. Still, considering that a significant amount of the issue is spent here, there’s not that much really happening. It can be summed up as “Dr. Creasy and Marsh agree the flowers aren’t native, and everybody makes jokes about bad food and Creasy throwing up the night before.” This is an interesting issue and the story is full of promise, but it needs some forward momentum.