So here’s one of the things that I’m rapidly appreciating about “Trees.” Namely, that it’s a series that can be about almost anything, within the context of its setting. Warren Ellis and Jason Howard spent the first two issues setting that world up, showing us some mysteries, moving through a large cast of characters. In “Trees” #3 that focus drops to just a handful of those characters — and those that show up might surprise you.
First, let’s be blunt: the scientists trying to figure out what’s going on with the strange growths aren’t in this issue. I can see a few readers instantly throwing up their hands and walking away at this revelation, to be honest, and on some level I understand them. It’s one of the central mysteries to the series, and for many I’m sure it was the reason why they stuck around past the first issue.
But hopefully by now, you’ve grown interested in the world of “Trees” overall, and in some of the other characters as well. To that extent, most of “Trees” #3 focuses on the two characters in Italy (the young woman and the older professor) and their lives intersecting on a more deliberate manner this time around. We learn a lot about both of them; their lives, their motivations, and what they can do for each other. There’s nary a Tree to be seen for their portion of the issue. And do you know what? It’s pretty great. Ellis can write some thoroughly compelling characters, and while these are two ordinary people, I find it hard to not like them immensely by the end of the issue.
For those worried about the lack of Trees, there’s also another thread (with the artist entering the Chinese city centered around the Tree) that should make you at least a tiny bit happy. And hey, we still need to see how the Italy storyline eventually intersects with others (provided it does), right? For now, I’m more than willing to sit back, relax, and enjoy it playing out bit by bit.
Howard’s art is fantastic as always, turning out some of the best work in his career. Everything from old city streets to bookstores are drawn gorgeously and carefully, with that slightly rough style that still holds an immense amount of detail. The professor’s gentle smile as he’s looking through the book tells more than paragraphs of narration ever could, and it’s nice to see Ellis trusting Howard’s strong artistic ability to tell his story. His body language in general is great; moments like Davide leaning against the wall with his hands and arms on either side of Eligia says so much about him and how he views her, something that’s later confirmed by Eligia’s conversation about Davide. Add in some beautiful colors — the oranges of Italy, the magentas of China — and it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous comic.
At this point, I really only have one worry, and that’s the fear that “Trees” will end with its first storyline. I hope that’s not the case. There’s so much potential here for years of story, and just as importantly, so much talent on display. Another excellent issue in an excellent series.