Best Shots Comic Reviews: JUSTICE LEAGUE, UNCANNY AVENGERS, BATMAN, OUTCAST #1, More
CREDIT: DC Comics
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Laura Martin
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
John Romita Jr.’s move to DC is one of the most significant hires by Marvel’s distinguished competition in at least the last decade. Together with DC’s Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, he’s been tasked with revitalizing Superman, a title and character that has been plagued by inconsistencies since the onset of the New 52. Pairing Romita’s striking visuals with Johns’ familiarity with Superman and his ability to craft well-received jumping-on points for the uninitiated is seemingly a match made in heaven. But is their involvement a Band-Aid for a much larger editorial problem, or does it mark a turning point for the character? Thankfully, it’s a turning point and while this issue might not win over all the naysayers, it’s a big step in the right direction.
Romita’s hiring is bold because it breaks away from DC’s recent track record of hiring artists that (with a few notable exceptions) largely stick to a house style that's reminiscent of Jim Lee and Andy Kubert. Unfortunately, that was never a look that worked particularly well for the Big Blue Boy Scout, and even George Perez’s early work on the title was nowhere close to his previous output. Romita and inker Klaus Janson give us some great looks in this one. They’re shooting for iconic, and our first look at Superman is exactly that - with a resounding punch to Titano’s mug. Rather than do too much experimentation, Romita delivers the building blocks for the series. We see Clark’s display of power, the glimpse of his suit under his clothes, flying, heat vision and many of the members of his supporting cast. It’s a reminder that this is a beginning, and that maybe the familiar pieces that were swept away in the reboot still have importance. Romita and Janson take much greater care with the main cast than the backgrounds or ancillary characters and it forces the reader to zero in on them. Almost like the artists are saying, “You know these people. Don’t you remember?”
Geoff Johns has cultivated a reputation for strong launches of titles and that’s gotten him to the post that he holds today. Johns’ experience across the DC universe is what informs his writing. He knows how to carve out a niche for a character as means to build them up in their own story before setting them loose elsewhere. Unfortunately for Johns, his method of choice is a Superman analogue named Ulysses. Typically, analogues are a great way for characters to deal with internal struggles in an external way (namely, punching). But it doesn’t work as the best hook for this story, especially because we just saw another Superman analogue in Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained. Obviously, different writers will use these characters to explore different aspects of their subject but right now it’s too early to give Johns any points for originality.
Where Johns really excels is building out the supporting cast. Perry’s discussion with Clark is a succinct little commentary on the state of Superman in the New 52 (without the bombast that Grant Morrison employed in Action Comics #9). And it works exceptionally well especially since it’s followed up by two panels that might be missed: Clark’s brief phone calls with his girlfriend Wonder Woman and his colleague Batman (or in this case, Bruce’s butler Alfred playing his social secretary). Johns puts the balancing act right in front of us and reminds us that while he might be Superman, Clark Kent/Kal El is very grounded in a way that most other DC heroes are not. The man who can do everything still needs to buy groceries, call his girlfriend and check in with his teammates. There’s something comforting about that.
Superman #32 might be lacking in a truly a original hook (for now) but it does wipe the slate clean for readers. It’s a snapshot of Clark’s life at this point and it lays the groundwork for future stories. Johns’ pacing is excellent and gets better on multiple reads. Both he and Romita include small, unmentioned details that enrich this book and bring it to a certain level that hadn’t been seen before. Going back to what’s familiar might be a new approach for this book but it’s definitely a good one. There’s a tendency to overcompensate during reboots and change too much of a character in order to facilitate newness. By bringing Superman down to Earth a bit and reminding readers of Clark’s place in the DC Universe, Johns and Romita have managed to make Superman someone you want to root for again. There’s a solitary sadness here and beginnings of hope. The latter has been sorely missed from this title for some time.
New Avengers Annual #1
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Marco Rudy
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
While Doctor Strange seems poised to make his leap to big screen stardom in the MCU, writers have often struggled to make stories starring the Sorcerer Supreme catch on with readers. Some times he is absurdly over powered and able to bend the very fabric of reality while others he is stripped of his power for the time being and stuck popping in and out of scenes in a team book, offering nothing more than a cheesy quip and a page from the Book of Vishanti. Thankfully we have writers like Frank J. Barbiere who understands that a man like this has to pay a cost for the power that he wields. New Avengers Annual #1 capitalizes on the events of Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers to deliver a truly arresting reintroduction to Doctor Strange for new fans and a jaw-dropping entry into his canon for longtime readers of all things Strange.
New Avengers Annual #1 finds the good doctor answering the summons of a commune of techno-monks high in the mountains of Tibet. Through their acceptance and research into arcane technologies, they unleashed a demon into our world and it possessed a visiting princess, after decimating the village below the temple. Barbiere, no stranger to high adventure, as illustrated by his amazing, and criminally under-read, Five Ghosts, goes for the gusto from page one with his Doctor Strange story. This is a suitably ridiculous plot for Strange to tackle after all the literal hell that he has been through over in New Avengers, making it all the more fun to read. Barbiere also never once winks at us, the audience, through the scripting of this adventure.
While the hook may be steeped in fantasy epic weirdness, the B-story offers a sobering, real world look at Strange’s origin and his refusal to accept defeat in the face of the impossible. As Strange is brought up to speed on the temple’s situation, he thinks back to a patient he encountered as a neurosurgeon. After being admonished by a fellow doctor for telling medical students that they can and will save every life, she introduces him to a terminal cancer patient who has accepted his fate. Strange quickly dismisses this and promises the man’s son that he will cure him. Despite using an experimental gamma knife procedure, Strange cannot save him - a gut-wrenching reminder of Strange’s former arrogance and failures. Barbiere balances the horror of the battle for the princess’ soul and the drama of Strange’s past with great success. Both plots offer a compelling look at a man willing to whatever is necessary to save a life, no matter the cost to his own soul.
Marco Rudy, who wowed readers last year with Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, makes New Avengers Annual #1 feel downright arcane. Along with the script, Rudy alternates between J.H. Williams-esque explosions of demonic battle and David Mack like renderings of a stylish medical drama. While the trippy phantasmagoria of Strange’s battle with a demon do offering some truly amazing visuals and one breathtaking splash page where Strange enters another plane in his astral form, it is Rudy’s panel layouts in in the concurrent story that take the top marks for stunning visuals in this annual. As Strange pours over X-rays and charts, Marco Rudy encloses the action inside of a hazy, florescent brain scan image. Looking at the whole scene from afar as one image is a pitch-perfect visual for a story like this. I have often wondered if Marco Rudy is capable of the kind of graphic magic that Grant Morrison is always bandying about, and New Avengers Annual #1 comes close more than once to being empirical evidence of it. Marco Rudy’s art alone is worth the cover price, but it wrapped around Frank J. Barbiere’s emotionally compelling script makes it a must buy for Doctor Strange fans of every stripe.
I cannot imagine that Strange is an easy character to write. The rules of magic in the Marvel Universe seem to be in a state of constant flux and Strange was always at the very eye of that narrative nightmare hurricane. With New Avengers, Jonathan Hickman leaned into the skid of Strange being all-powerful and sat him at a table with other titans, as well as a hefty power upgrade, at the cost of his soul. With New Avengers Annual #1, Frank J. Barbiere and Marco Rudy reintroduce us to the man behind the Eye of Agamatto, warts and all, with a gorgeous single issue that makes a very strong case for a solo Strange ongoing. Stephen Strange sold his soul to have the power to save every reality, but he still makes house calls. But don't worry, you can trust him - he’s a doctor.
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Paul Azaceta and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
For those who have been following his work lately, you can really split Robert Kirkman into two Kirkmans - the hard-edged, realistic Robert Kirkman who terrorizes his hapless heroes in The Walking Dead, and the Kirkman who embraces superpowers and ignores the rules of reality over on Invincible. Yet with the first issue of Outcast, it feels like we're getting a bit of both worlds, with Kirkman's zombies being replaced by demonic possession and his superheroes subsiding to the supernatural science behind exorcisms. Thus far, Kirkman is still getting warmed up, but like the rest of his comics work, the production values of this book remain top-notch.
To be clear, it's obvious that Kirkman is trying to court his Walking Dead fanbase here, as he opens up this book with a child grinning maniacally as he is chewing his fingers to the bone. (A bit of serendipity to go with Image's superb Nailbiter book, I wonder?) This child is possessed by a demon, and Kirkman reminds us that is very good at being very bad to his characters, as this kid kicks his mother in the nose and head butts and leaps at anyone trying to intervene. But like Walking Dead before it, Kirkman isn't content with just shock value - there's a deeper, character-driven mystery here, as we soon meet Kyle Barnes, a man who's haunted by demons both metaphorical and literal. Kirkman teases out Kyle's story as we meet this broken man - this is a man who hasn't just been traumatized by a possessed mother, but seems to have lost his family to possession, as well. This is not the story of a man who is going to be hailed as a hero, but instead is a man who is, well, an outcast.
Similar to Skybound's Witch Doctor, there's also a bit of a procedural element to this first issue, in the fact that Kyle has to team up with a reverend in order to drive this demon out of the boy's body. While there's the trademark Kirkman brutality at play - at one point, Kyle has to punch the child in the face repeatedly, after the boy bites his hand and won't let go - there's a higher power at work that he couldn't get away with in The Walking Dead. There are rules to demonic possession, and not only are the results not pretty, but we realize that Kyle's education in the subject wasn't, either.
Artist Paul Azaceta is another good pick for this book, as his rough linework still manages to convey a powerful expressiveness to these characters. Kyle, for example, starts off looking like a loser, sitting in his roach-filled apartment with an empty fridge - but later on, we see him literally grit his teeth and pick himself up. (And later still, we see him absolutely lose his cool, looking like a crazy person beating on a child.) Azaceta is able to use shadows to move from the everyday scenes to bits of absolute horror, such as Kyle's mother staring at him like prey from a darkened kitchen.
Of course, it remains to be seen where Outcast will go - if this winds up being a series like Skybound's Thief of Thieves, Outcast may still wind up in an early grave, if Kirkman takes his star power and his vision to another title prematurely. Being a one-man franchise can do that - people demand new franchises, but you can only stretch yourself so thin, and why should you stay on a book beyond your interest level? Life's too short. Right now, Kirkman's vision for Outcast is only embryonic, with strong pacing and great art from Azaceta keeping you intrigued. If Kirkman can assert the direction of this series more fully as time goes on, you may still hold this Outcast close to your heart.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Forrest C. Helvie
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
The end draws nigh as Batman #32 introduces the first part of the grand finale to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's year-long "Zero Year" story arc. While Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Lucius Fox continue to chase down the Riddler in the labyrinth he's made out of Gotham, the time keeps ticking as the vigilante and law enforcement discover the enigmatic villain's intentions to sink the city altogether with the unwitting aid of SEAL team in their midst. Although the outcome of this story arc has been a foregone conclusion from the very beginning – obviously, Batman wins – it's a testament to this team's storytelling skills that keep readers wondering just when that moment will finally take place when Batman gets his first big break.
Once again, Capullo's art in this story proves to be consistent in terms of providing clear-cut illustration that allows readers to easily follow what's going on in the story. Basing his page composition off the standard grid approach and only deviating slightly from this method helps keep the trader on track and not bogged down with overly complicated panel arrangements. With this issue's focus on the hunt for the Riddler, maintaining a fast pace is important, and Capullo's arrangement helps keep the tempo up.
Another thing that stood out to me in this issue was the choice to set the story during the daytime – something that I hadn't thought about as much in the previous issue. Arguably, there was no reason it couldn't have been set during the evening, which would have been better suited to more conventional understandings of when Batman tends to operate. And then it struck me that this was exactly why it was set during the day: It is just one more piece on the board that Batman has no control over in this story. Moreover, it allows Capullo and Plascencia to draw out the Gorshen-esque Riddler in all his garish, hubristic glory – a stage best set in the bright light of day and not the night where any hint of his personality might go unnoticed. And it certainly provides Plascencia ample opportunities to put his skills on display particularly in the scenes with Batman's assault on the suspected business office and later the discovery of Riddler's actually hideout. Regardless of whether this was a decision made the writer or artist, it was certainly a smart move.
While the previous example is a strong point especially for Plascenica, Miki is certainly not left out in the cold in Issue #32. The moments just prior to Riddler's revealing himself to Batman are some incredibly strong panels from a visual standpoint, thanks to Miki's foreboding inks, with Batman now standing in complete darkness. It's a rather fitting circumstance given his streak of failures against Nygma. Some might see these examples from this issue as minor points, but they serve as but a few examples of how the entire creative team comes together to tell this story in a sometimes subtle but no less effective manner.
Ultimately, we know Batman is going to win this war. What keeps me engaged, however, is that he continually seems to be losing battle after battle with the Riddler. It becomes less of a question of if Snyder will let Batman win, but how will he get Batman across the finish line. Moreover, there is still the concern about Snyder's vision for Bruce's backstory that he has yet to finish wrapping up as evidenced by the one-page teaser alluding Bruce's search for a new butler. Again, readers know the core of what makes Bruce Wayne – and Batman – tick. Yet, in the same way we collectively thought we knew Gotham but were caught off guard by the introduction of the Court of Owls, so too do we wonder what else Snyder may uncover from behind those key elements to Bruce and Batman's makeup before the end of "Zero Year."
Overall, fans of the series will continue to enjoy seeing Batman, Gordon, and Fox come together even if these stalwarts of Gotham aren't achieving the results they eventually become more accustomed to later on in their continuity. We often take for granted Batman's fallibility, and this extended story arc underscores this point repeatedly, which the Riddler reminds Batman about in this issue.
Uncanny Avengers #21
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Daniel Acuna and Dean White
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
For everyone who felt that the last few issues of Uncanny Avengers were moving slow, here is where things start to pay off. After setting up countless moving pieces, adding layer upon layer of scheming celestial manipulators, and throwing it all in a chronological blender, Rick Remender's big picture is coming into view. Despite stepping on itself a few too many times to really stick the landing, Uncanny Avengers #21 is exactly the kind of unabashed, cosmic popcorn action the ultimate culmination of Marvel's two biggest franchises should promise.
Returning to the present - or at least, the moments right before the present - Wolverine and his ragtag bunch of surviving Unity Squad members confront Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man, explaining that their plan will fail, and effectively undercutting the Apocalypse twins' scheme before it even takes place. With that settled, the erstwhile Avengers reunite with their Earth-bound counterparts, enacting a plan that is so insane, it just may work. With all that settled, and with the X-Men in tow, Earth's united heroes set about to stop Exitar the Celestial Executioner from destroying Earth.
So with all that action, it's amazing that Remender still finds time to make with the cool character beats. Wolverine, for all that's been done with him, still has a little badass left in him, such as when he shows up, to Grim Reaper's horror, to do something no other Avenger could accomplish. But the big star of this issue is Rogue, who gets about as much spotlight as she has in any other comic for the last several years. Given her portrayal throughout this series as a hardnosed naysayer, it's refreshing, in a bombastic, soap-opera kind of way to see her make amends with Scarlet Witch before jetting off to save the world.
But even these big moments show the cracks in Remender's script. Rogue may be a key component of the team's endgame, but her big break shuts down just short of real greatness, as she's forced to share her moment, leaving her less of the hero of the day, and more of a vessel. Likewise, Wolverine's big damn hero bit is underscored by a jump that cuts out the nasty bits of his deed. And it's not that that moment needs to be seen, necessarily - really, two pages spent on a fight scene between Wolverine and Grim Reaper isn't going to sell the point better than what does make it to the page - but it's emblematic of the crash of important beats that fill this issue. They're big, they're bold, but they're given little time to breathe, let alone exist unto themselves.
Remender's usual partner in crime, Daniel Acuna, is a bit of a mixed bag this issue. Sturdy panel layouts are occasionally broken by some odd storytelling choices that show a few too many chinks to be perfectly readable, and his already loose inks feel somewhat sloppy, at the cost of their energy. Still, Acuna and Dean White nail the really big moments, like Kang's time-crossed team arriving in the past, and the Conqueror's own major moment. White does much of the heavy lifting, allowing Acuna's deep blacks to really drive the pages while relying on a palette of blues and oranges to dial in the mood, and the gravity of Earth's fate. This isn't "widescreen" comics art, but it still brings that epic feel when it truly counts.
In this, the endgame of its biggest arc, Uncanny Avengers is proving that it is truly the Avengers title that best delivers the kind of thrills and stories the team really deserve. That it's almost also the best X-Men book on the stands speaks volumes as well. There are times throughout Uncanny Avengers #21 where it's easy to forget that there was ever a line between the two camps, and that is to the book's tremendous benefit. In many ways, Remender's self-contained saga of time and space is a better event than Marvel's big event books, and when it comes to Earth's Mightiest Heroes, that's exactly as it should be.
Justice League #31
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy and Rod Reis
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Now this is the Geoff Johns I know and love.
When he's at his best, Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers in comics. We all know he's got the high concepts down, and he's able to tie them into continuity with an ease that's both encyclopedic and a little bit frightening. But when he's at his best, Johns' greatest strength is how he approaches character, as he truly distills the heroes of the DC Universe into figures that we can truly root for. In recent years, however, I've been less enthusiastic about some of Johns' output, with events like Blackest Night or Forever Evil focusing more on spectacle rather than the human substance.
Judging by what he's put out this week in both Superman and the latest issue of Justice League, it feels like we might be seeing a return to form for DC's most popular and influential writer.
There's a bit of a soap operatic side to Justice League #31, as Johns portrays the battle of the minds between Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne. Lex wants to join the Justice League - presumably for benign purposes, following the destruction during Forever Evil - and he believes that having Batman's secret identity is the currency he needs to leverage this hostile takeover. Johns makes this meeting tense yet satisfying, as we watch Bruce put on his best foppish persona - and some occasional strong-arming from his butler Alfred - to try to discourage Lex, and the ending of that scene will make for some great tension down the road. It's also great to see that Johns doesn't stop with just the two most interesting characters - he also takes the time to build up several other characters, including the budding friendship between Cyborg and Shazam, as well as Captain Cold's surprise at being on the right side of the law for a change. Even the newest iteration of the villainous Power Ring gets a great, condensed origin story, and even though she's at the mercy of powers far beyond those of normal men and women, seeing her fire a shotgun at her emerald captor makes me root for her all the same.
The artwork by Doug Mahnke also is a good fit for this book, where he's able to straddle that line of being appropriately iconic, clean and familiar, but also having just a flexible enough style to make things moody and atmospheric when he needs to. His take on the new Power Ring is a nice balance of shadows and energy, as the possessed ring burns the air with its foul emerald energies. Meanwhile, the physical distance between Lex and Bruce is a great touch, showing not just how far apart ideologically they two are, but just how awkward and tentative the situation is, as Lex accuses and Bruce denies. (Lex in general straddles the line between being charming and unhinged, especially the way he smiles in victory.) This is also some great color work by Rod Reis, who gives most of this issue a cool background, which allows the flames of Bruce's fireplace or the bright red of Shazam's costume to really pop.
For a team comprised of the best characters of the DC Universe, it felt for far too long that the Justice League was ignoring its premium asset, instead using these properties as window dressing to justify B-list villains or indulgent subplots. That's not to say that Johns doesn't still have some ways to go before he gets to that kind of perfect character balance he had writing Avengers or Justice Society of America - after all, characters like Superman and Wonder Woman get short shrift, and Flash and Aquaman are completely MIA in favor of an abrupt cliffhanger - but all the same, this is a very different writer than the one we've seen lately. It's a writer who doesn't just care about his characters, but demonstrates why we should, too. Here's hoping this Geoff Johns sticks around for the long haul.
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jason Howard
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The best science fiction should feel ominous. The setting should feel creepy in its normality, almost benign. Warren Ellis presented us such a world in Trees #1. Ten years had passed since silent pillars from the stars landed upon our world and regarded humanity with icy contempt. While the debut issue solidly built the foundation of the world on a macro scale, Trees #2 delves much further into the social and ecological effects of the Trees, as well as expanding the cast and scope of the story. But best of all, the entire issue feels heavy with dread. The world feels almost too close to our own, adding a hefty dose of futurist paranoia on top of the already compelling sci-fi drama.
Trees #2 spends the majority of its page count following the exploits of the Blindhail Station research team, housed in the shadow of a Tree. Strange black poppies have been growing all along the ground around the base of the Tree; poppies that seem to defy the very laws of terrestrial plant life. Marsh, the resident hot shot researcher with something to hide, is obsessed with determining their origin, feigning off offers of a return home and switching shifts with other members of the team in order to investigate further. While Ellis has some fun with one of his stock characters (a bad boy of science), he also triples the cast of Trees introducing us to Creasey, the new fish of Blindhail Station, as well as the rest of the crew of the station. The scenes at Blindhail Station feel like the first acts of a much larger story involving the Trees effects on the Earth, so the real world-building is left to the cutaways to other parts of the world directly impacted by the landing of Trees. In issue two, we are given teasing glances at Italy and Somalia. Warren Ellis displays the same eye for realistic science fiction that he displayed in titles like Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan, but while those titles took a stylized and exaggerated look at the future, Trees feels like a natural extension of our world. Trees feels grounded and researched enough that the situations it presents to an audience don’t feel impossible to buy into. In Italy, we are introduced to an island that seems on the brink of open revolt and a mysterious old man who seems fixated on the Trees - another Ellis staple. While in Somalia, the president, during an interview, expounds on the tactical advantage of their nearest Tree, supposedly the shortest one yet. Both of these sets of scenes feel plausible, and compelling enough to support the narrative introduced in the debut issue. The first issue was the bait. Trees #2 is the hook and Warren Ellis seems to have much more for us to chew on in the future.
One of the other more interesting facets of Ellis’s story explored in Issue #2 is that the Trees have little interest in humanity and what we do, but the Trees themselves are imposing enough to effect humans down to their very mental state. Of course, giant weird pillars just stamping down onto cities all over the world would have massive sociopolitical and ecological effects on the world at large, but looking past that, it would also make sense that just the sheer sight of them would be enough to drive people to insanity or severe depression. Tian, the artist from the debut issue, was our audience surrogate the first time around, but this time around we have Creasey, the diametric opposite of Tian and his optimism toward the Trees. After a dubious welcome to the station, Creasey discusses her initiation with Marsh. Creasey is due for her first look at the Tree up close and she is, understandably scared. Marsh also explains that the Tree has a history of driving people batty or making them abandon their posts, like their erstwhile Polar Bear Guards, which are not, in fact, guards who are polar bears. This injection of creepiness is one of Warren Ellis’ strong points as a writer. It makes complete sense that someone would go a bit barmy when faced with a huge unexplainable object from space so Ellis takes the time to at least state it, in order for it to possibly be explored later on. They may not care about us, but we can’t help but care and worry about them.
Jason Howard shines in Trees #2, employing a cool, moody look to this second issue. His panels look like a tamer Mateo Scalera, yet still sketchy, with rough-hewn lines backed by muted single color backgrounds. While the debut issue was propelled forward by its opening action scene, Howard takes his time with #2, allowing character moments, coloring choices, and dynamic panel layouts to give the issue its momentum. Howard’s characters display a wide range of emotion, his close-ups emoting as they stack through the larger image of black poppies being laid down on a desk. Jason Howard blocks the scenes with a keen director’s eye, never letting a single image dominate or distract the reader from the next panel in a sequence. Jason Howard is a true graphic storyteller and Trees #2 is a wonderful example of his talent. Howard also uses evocative colors to heighten the drama of certain scenes, specifically the scenes in Italy and Somalia. Cefalu is colored in cool coastal blues and whites. The character’s costumes are warmer yellows, purples, and a pinkish white. The interview in Somalia is colored with a harsh purple light after a blinding flash of white cuts through the scene with President Rahim’s entrance. Howard’s talent for visual storytelling doesn’t stop with just economical scene construction and expressive characterizations. He also knows when to deploy innovative color and lighting choices in order to give the issue an extra artistic flourish. Trees #2 looks gorgeous and makes me very excited for what Jason Howard will show us next month.
The last sentence in Trees #2 is “It doesn’t care,” in reference to the titular Tree. Issue #2 shows us implicitly how true this sentence is. Trees isn’t about the Trees. Why would it be? Good science fiction isn’t about the invaders, it’s about the invaded. Trees is about an occupied Earth. Trees #2 is Warren Ellis and Jason Howard giving us a deeper look at that occupation and how humans around the planet are responding. The Trees may not care, but life still goes on around them. That is until, they do something about it. Aliens are real, and they didn’t come in peace - they came in indifference.