Pulp #639

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Pulp #639

Hey there everyone! Hope you’re all having a swell week and, if like me, are a uni student preparing for exams, that your prep/cramming sessions/crying on the floor goes well. The struggle is almost over!

In order to break up the monotony of rote learning, I’ve gone back to my unashamedly fanboyish roots, and picked up yet another Warren Ellis title for this week. Now, if you’ve been following Pulp for a while, you’ll probably know how much of an Ellis fanboy I am – for the uninitiated, Warren Ellis is my favourite comic writer, and in my humble opinion, Transmetropolitan is the best comic ever written – so, as usual, I’ll try to tone down the squeals of unadulterated joy and look at this week’s book with something resembling an attempt at impartiality. Emphasis on the word “try” there.

This week, I’ve picked up Trees, Ellis’ ongoing sci-fi title at the latest bastion of great stories, Image Comics. Trees started back in 2014, and while I remember seeing the first few issues pop up in my comic feed, I never actually got around to picking up any of the issues – or subsequent trades – until now. To be honest, I’m pretty disappointed in myself – fanboying aside, Ellis is a great writer, and Trees makes for one hell of a good story.

Trees is set some time in the near future, 10 years after the arrival of the titular, monolithic alien presences. They stand on the surface of the earth, unmoving and silent, seemingly taking no notice of humanity. The destruction caused by their arrival, while limited to certain areas of the globe – Rio de Janeiro, Mogadishu and New York City were all hit, among other cities – caused a breakdown in society, and the areas under their shadow alternate between ramshackle governance and utter anarchy. There are multiple points of view in the narrative; the story shifts between a young Chinese painter in the “special cultural zone” of a city under a Tree, a young woman under the menacing protection of fascists who meets an old man who wants to teach her some very dangerous skills and a research team in Svalbard that discover that the Trees may not in fact be dormant after all.

Trees is one of those books that presents itself as a slow burn. While there is plenty going on in everyone’s respective stories, the Trees themselves do very little, and most of the overall plot progression happens when the story focuses on the research team. While the other stories are most definitely engaging, they don’t seem to have much relevance to the story at large. That said, Trees still presents some fantastic examinations of life post-Tree invasion; the small glimpses of New York and Rio de Janeiro show a world that’s barely holding itself together. Chenglei, the Chinese artist, has a particularly interesting story; his introduction to the laissez-faire, bohemian lifestyle of the city of Shu makes for one hell of a fish-out-of-water scenario. Once he adapts, however, his story is endearing, and was one of the highlights of the first trade.

Despite the fact that I’m a big fan of Ellis’ writing, Trees is still a damn good story; it’s engaging, emotional and more than a bit creepy. It’s a grounded sci-fi epic, and it’ll leave you wanting more. Bias aside, it’s yet another Image title that will impress the hell out of you.

Written by Alastair McGibbon