TREES: THREE FATES #1
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Jason Howard Colorist: Dee Cunniffe Letterer: Fonografiks Publisher: Image Comics Rating: 7/10
Eleven years ago, the Tree mysteriously landed in Toska, a Russian village with a total of 63 people. In the present day a stranger’s corpse was found by the Tree. Police sergeant Klara Voranova, who first witnessed the Tree’s landing, decides to investigate. That’s how the first issue of TREES: THREE FATES #1 kicks off. Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s near-future science fiction murder mystery miniseries takes place in the world of their previous TREES series. However, it’s not a directly connected continuation.
When I saw this title was being released, I knew I had to check it out for Warren Ellis’ name alone. Having him working on an Image book doesn't hurt, either. While the issue doesn’t have the traditional Ellis unfiltered edge, I finished wondering what was going to happen next. The plot introduces a straightforward investigation story that’s illustrated by Jason Howard, the co-creator of TREES. Howard’s style works well for the story he and Ellis are telling. The characters look like realistic but have a cartoonish style at the same time, which is not a bad thing. It’s a versatile style that can switch from serious and comedic to eerie smoothly.
One of my favorites aspects of the issue are Howard’s designs for the environments. Since Toska is such a small village, Howard does a very effective job showing how cold, lonely and desolate the setting is. It makes the story feel more authentic and tangible. When I look at Dee Cunniffe’s muted color style, I get a sense of impending doom. It just makes the first issue feel like the calm before the storm. The book is filled with mostly cool green, gray and blue with the occasional and well-placed splash of red.
The first five pages feel like a completely different book. It starts as our main character’s ex barges out during an argument in his underwear (in cold Russian climate). Within seconds he gets crushed by a giant tree trunk that falls from the sky. Maybe it was supposed to be cynical but I honestly couldn’t tell. The tone changes to something more serious when the book flashes forward to the present day when Klara investigates the murder. The murder victim was a no-name so there’s no attachment to that person other than that they’re dead and investigating the murder would be the next logical step for Klara. I also would’ve liked to learn how witnessing the Tree land in Toska affected Klara during the eleven years we didn’t see. Maybe future issues will fill in the gaps and give some history on Toska, also.
Despite the cool, muted colors and edgy visuals, the story itself didn’t pull me in as much as I wanted it to. This isn’t a rag on Warren Ellis. I love his work. He’s been one of my favorite writers for years. That said, one great benefit is that you don’t need to read the original TREES series to jump onto THREE FATES. It’s very new reader friendly. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD) The intensity finally kicks in near the end of the issue. It really wasn’t until the last few pages when it’s revealed that the people who run the railway station, who can see everyone who comes and goes in Toska, are responsible in some way for the murder. The issue ends and leaves the reader asking questions. When I finished the book, I was still curious. TREES: THREE FATES #1 sets up what’s to come in future issues of the miniseries. Something dark is brewing in Toska. This is just the beginning. Even though the first issue was pretty tame, I’m betting that Ellis and Howard are going to up the ante for the second issue of the miniseries.