Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Trees 12, originally released August 19th, 2015.
noun noun: hero; plural noun: heroes
a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
the chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
Drew: I think I’ve always thought of those two definitions as functionally identical — we acknowledge heroes in real life for the same qualities we admire them in fiction — but a closer look reveals a rather profound difference in how much agency is required to satisfy these two definitions. That is, the first definition is about deeds performed by the would-be hero, whereas the second definition is more about the heroes place in the narrative; no agency is actually required. It’s no surprise to me that the morally grey characters of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Trees don’t satisfy the “noble qualities” clause of the first definition, but I was a bit more surprised to discover how passive they all have been. The biggest turning points in this series find the characters completely passive, from Professor Bongiorno’s acceptance of his own murder to Marsh’s decision to not sound the alarm about the Svalbard poppies. Issue 12 still features plenty of characters boxed in by their circumstances, but also gives Creasy the opportunity to actually do something. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Trees 10, originally released June 17th, 2015.
Patrick: There’s a problem with most disaster narratives: there’s seldom an obvious antagonist. For as much as “Man vs. Nature” is one of those fundamental conflicts, it’s just harder for an audience to emotionally commit to a series of atrocities committed by a force or phenomenon with no willpower of its own. Think about every zombie movie you’ve ever seen – who are the real bad guys? The zombies? Nah: people pushed to desperate measures are far more dangerous. Twister, Titanic, Alien – all of these movies feature the deadly forces of nature, but there’s no sense of antagonism until we meet rival storm chasers, or understand how big of a dick Rose’ boyfriend is, or until Bishop reveals Weyland Yutani’s coroprate greed. Trees has done something similar in previous issues – focusing on the cultures of corruption, control, and ambition around the trees, ultimately casting man as his own worst enemy. Issue 10, however, reminds us just how terrifying the trees themselves actually are.
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Trees 9, originally released May 20th, 2015.
…Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Ryan: The curtains rise in Trees 9 on three silent pages chronicling the Luciferian Fall of poor, poor Marsh. My favorite character in this series rests, undone by the very thing which drove him to the brink of madness:
The nefarious flowers bloom in his desiccated corpse as if in an elegy: Here Lie Marsh, Whose Name Was Writ Only in Alien Poppies. Thank you, Jason Howard, for the send-off which Dr. Marsh needed. 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 →