TREES is fascinating because, at its core, it's a psychological narrative. Barring future evidence that the black flowers in the Arctic are tree-related -- and perhaps even with such evidence -- the trees have done nothing and the humans have run wild with theories, suspicions, and plots all the same. I would be neither surprised nor disappointed if the trees turned out to be some sort of MacGuffin by the end of this; the more interesting stuff is human. Is a researcher hypothesizing because of what he has observed, or out of reluctance to go home? Are the Italians merely looking for an excuse to band into gangs and political groups? Is the Somali President truly strategic, or just showing his cards? I can't tell yet, I'm not sure if I'll find out, and that's intriguing.
This month's issue skips around the world, and introduces several new characters, but the jetsetting is grounded by each locale's shared proximity to a tree. It's interesting to see how the trees are interpreted by people in different locations (and of different vocations -- we're looking at several different lifestyles and sets of values), and equally fascinating to see which human traits are brought out in each location. The trees are a source of confusion and contemplation nearly everywhere, but they seem to elicit different reactions -- fear, greed, paranoia, curiosity, contempt -- from different people.
Complementing the thought-provoking narrative is a set of thoughtfully-designed pages; the layouts feel fresh and move the eye forward by alternating between panels and border-breaking splashes. Colors seem especially chosen -- there are clear palette shifts as the locations (and moods) change, and it's a very composed effect.
Some scenes -- particularly those in the Arctic -- are a bit jargon-heavy or make references to locations that aren't immediately evident as such. I've been doing a fair bit of Googling for terms, and it's a jog out of the story.
The high concept of this book is enchanting, and its execution is proving to be a great match so far. It's as if Ellis and Howard have dared us to guess whether the trees are going to do anything, and that ongoing tension (for readers, and for the characters) is absolutely a reason to pick up this book. I'm looking forward to getting to know some of the cast a bit more in future issues, and seeing how far this tension game plays out.