Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Howard
Published by Image Comics
Trees might finally be starting to go in a specific direction, but it’s continuing to do so very, very slowly. This comic is not heavy on action, or even particularly interesting dialogue. If you’re looking for a one-sentence summary, it would be something along the lines of “A young woman follows an old man around town, and a woman tells her artistic neighbor to get out more.”
This issue is the first to not introduce any new characters and instead focuses on just three people: Chenglei, Eligia, and the old man in Italy. Eligia spends most of this issue trying to figure out who the old man is and mocks her boyfriend’s fascist gang. We learn that he is a professor from the University of Milan as he buys an edition of On The Sublime from 1834. Eligia eventually tracks him down and asks him to teach her things. In China, Chenglei is sitting in his room when his neighbor comes to visit. He has been furiously drawing and not leaving his room, and Zhen, his neighbor, offers to take him out to see the city.
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It’s possible that the professor’s teachings to Eligia will have something to do with the trees and that this will somehow unite a couple of the storylines and finally get the story moving. As it stands, listening to the professor quote from On the Sublime or discussing the difficulty of only being able to find French and English translations is not engaging at all. All of this is a shame because I like Eligia’s character. I like how disdainfully she treats her boyfriend’s lame political ambitions and the idea of Fascism in general. She seems strong and interesting. The problem is that the attention and dialogue is all focused on the professor, who’s just spouting the typical dialogue you hear from wise characters who have to teach you something.
At present, Jason Howard has very little to work with in this comic. No fantastic scenes of alien architecture, no natural vistas, nothing unusual at all. I’ve read other reviewers saying this comic is complicated, but I’m not seeing that at all. We don’t know what’s going on, and the dialogue between characters isn’t filling in those gaps. There’s a difference between a complex storyline, and one in which little happens and we are left in the dark. This is the latter.