Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Trees 8, originally released January 7th, 2015.
…like Psycho,it will now effectively recommence, shifting focus to characters who had seemed to be playing supporting roles…
Drew: As well-known and well-regarded as Psycho is, its form — where the focus of the movie abruptly shifts upon the death of what appeared to be the film’s protagonist — is as jarring today as it was in 1960. Killing the protagonist violates one of our most basic assumptions about a narrative, leaving us without an anchor as the story continues without its lead. Mike D’Angelo’s thought-provoking “How did one of 2014’s most striking scenes get confused with one of its worst?” (quoted above) details how director Zack Palmer negotiates this transition in Proxy, but I’d argue that the most important part of the transition is simply that the story isn’t complete.
If Psycho was truly about Janet Leigh’s thieving secretary, her death would be a totally satisfactory ending, but rather than resolving anything, her death only creates more tension. Who killed her? Why? Will this villain ever meet justice? That Psycho misleads us about those first two questions is inconsequential — Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof is unequivocal about those, leaving only the third question to be resolved in its second half. The point is, while the protagonist’s life is over, the story sure as hell isn’t, which is enough to carry us through any number of unexpected deaths. At least, that’s the presumption Warren Ellis and Jason Howard are banking on as they carry us through their own outsized Psycho moment in Trees 8. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Trees 7, originally released November 26th, 2014.Ryan: In Trees 7, we hear rumblings in the distance, like heat-lightning on a quiet summer night. We also see the rumblings present, like the book shelf in Jumanji which gets obliterated by the stampede. After a somewhat polarizing issue 6, Ellis and Howard return to us with some big happenings and continue to set the stage for what promises to be a hellacious climax. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Trees 6, originally released October 15th, 2014.Ryan: Remember watching Dragon Ball Z when you were younger? Remember how you would be so excited for the final confrontations, but shake your fist of the television screen when an entire episode stretched by and nary a punch was thrown? Well, anime, like manga, like comics, like Dickensian 19th century literature, is serialized. The objective of serialization is to keep readers or viewers invested enough to buy the next installment. Sometimes this can lead to frustrating lulls in action which hide under the guise of building exposition. In many ways, I felt this way about Trees 6. While we receive some rumblings of future events and some fall-out from past occurrences, this issue moves the plot forward the smallest amount possible. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Trees 5, originally released September 17th, 2014.
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Drew: I kind of resent that works of art need titles. I appreciate the necessity of distinguishing one book from another, but titles seem to always inelegantly summarize or gracelessly fix some piece of authorial intent I’d rather not be privy to. I’m the least offended by more utilitarian titles, (coincidentally) like Romeo and Juliet, which doesn’t assert anything beyond the play’s focus on those two characters.With Trees, writer Warren Ellis certainly captured that utilitarian spirit by simply naming the thing that makes his science fictional world unique, but then he goes and re-muddies the waters by ending each issue with a pull quote. He removes them from any context, stripping them of any attribution or even punctuation — as if to hint at some kind of greater truth in his characters’ words — but that repetition alone is enough to lend those words an unwieldy significance that asserts someone’s subjectivity. As issue 5 takes an even closer over-the-shoulder view of many of the characters, the nature of that subjectivity becomes a central concern. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Trees 1, originally released May 28th, 2014.Drew: All stories have a narrator. This point was obvious enough to me in high school english classes, as we aimed to parse first person from close third person, or subjective from omniscient, but was utterly lost when I thought about the more visual storytelling of film and comics. Who is the narrator of Casablanca? Of TheGodfather? It’s easy enough for us to point to a first person narrator when there’s overbearing voiceover, but whose is the default point of view we take when watching a movie or reading a comic book without that kind of obvious diegetic narration? Some might argue that those narratives present some kind of objective accounting of the events in question, but subjectivity creeps in at every turn, with shot composition, lighting, costuming, pacing, editing, even music cues designed to illicit very specific emotional reactions (often those of the characters on the screen or page). With Trees 1, Warren Ellis and Jason Howard have shined a spotlight on those very details, starting threads that differ not only in their settings and characters, but in the perspective of their narrators, as well. Continue reading →