Trees: Three Fates
The third volume in the Trees series from Warren Ellis and Jason Howard focuses on Klara, a smalltown cop in Toska, Russia. When a murder is discovered in the shadow of one of the mysterious Trees, Klara must sift through the rubble of this slowly dying town to uncover ugly truths about power and greed.
With the long-awaited third volume, Ellis and Howard break the mold somewhat by choosing a singular subject to focus on in Klara and the town of Toska. If you are reading this volume to find out the mystery behind the Trees, you are out of luck. There are moments that lightly gesture towards a grand revelation yet to come but as with previous arcs, Three Fates is very much a story about the human condition with the Trees serving only as parameters for the story to take place rather than active agents.
In the first issue, we meet Klara’s lover, Sasha, as he flees their home after a fight only to be crushed by the arriving Trees. Later in the story, an apparition of Sasha appears and speaks cryptically to Klara of loss and hanging on to things before finally disappearing in the final act after reconciling with his surviving love. Fleeting as his appearances may be, Sasha’s presence feels like the unifying factor that ties this story to the greater narrative. In a flashback sequence, Sasha drunkenly waxes poetic on Sarte and the notion of despair.
The very idea of living with the despair that all things must eventually end marks the driving force of the narrative. Klara uncovers a local conspiracy involving the railway operator who has become the sole holder of power over her tiny town and her desperate attempts to maintain control of that power no matter what. It would seem the suggestion here is that power and control are both linked to the cause of despair but also a sort of human-created way to combat it. The Trees, if they prove to be designed to eliminate despair by keeping everything lost at an arms reach, severely disrupt this cycle of fear and longing. The final page heralds the arrival of the Black Flowers seen in previous volumes, indicating that the Trees dormancy is over and something is on the verge of happening.
Trees, to include this latest volume, is not a book for everybody. This series simply isn’t the one to hand to a stranger in your local shop and have the expectation that they will love it the way you do. It is very Ellisian in that sense. But if you’re a patient reader with an interest in the philosophical states of the human condition and are keen to explore cultural developments in our world under slightly altered conditions, this book is very much for you. There is a definite feel, given how much time there is between releases, that the Trees project is one that Ellis is passionate about and the passion of such a writer as he is something worth waiting for.
Jason Howard continues to outdo himself with every page. The layouts propell the story forward even its most quiet moments. The figure work, highly stylized in its simplicity, manages to remain extremely emotive throughout, through the body language of slumped shoulders to a slight smile that betrays something evil. The backgrounds are as rich and enveloping as the Trees are monolithic. The craftsmanship of the entire team shines throughout this series.
Trees: Three Fates (Ellis, Howard) delivers the long awaited third volume in typically spectacular fashion.
Trees: Three Fates Series Review: Despair in the Shadows of the Trees
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 8.5/108.5/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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