I call myself a huge fan of science fiction. I have explored the roots of that love in this column before. The short explanation is that I can trace my great relationship with my 8 years elder brother back to a screening of Lost in Space when I was 11 years old. Science Fiction has a very soft meaningful place in my heart. However science fiction is such a broad genre. It is easy just to throw a blanket statement that I love sic-fi but that covers so much material. Movies like The Fifth Element, Gattaca, Donnie Darko and Alien some how all fit under the same umbrella. So let me be more specific. There is a place for every sub genre of sci-fi on my movie shelf however the sci-fi that I love, the sci-fi I can replay over and over, the sci-fi that grasps my imagination and holds it long past the stories end is sci-fi horror. To me a science fiction horror story is not a monster movie, to me a science fiction horror story is when the story feels real, the world feels lived in and the danger is inevitable. Trees issue #1 has all the elements of a sci-fi horror tale which has me licking my chops.
One of the hurdles to writing a great science fiction story is making it relatable to the audience. An interesting idea with a lot of futuristic action is more than enough to sell copies but it will never reach that iconic level. The key to any great story is getting the audience invested. If I can get invested in the characters, invested in the story or invested in the world then every duck and turn in the plot is going to drag me with it. The goal is to make the audience feel they are a participant and not just a spectator. This is how great movies like Alien top my list. A movie that makes the horror of science fiction feel real. This is how great comics like The Wake top my list. A comic that roots the history of a dangerous species to very real events of the past. The key is to make the world one that is not ours, but very well could be someday.
The first issue of Trees has created this response in me. Ellis has created a world that is subtly terrifying. It is terrifying because the unreal elements (alien trees) are mixed with the real (robot dogs). This world does not look too far off from our own. Before we get into the details let’s take a closer look at the story. Trees is based in a world where alien pillars have touched down all over the world and they have been sitting there doing nothing for 10 years. Seemingly they have left everyone alone because they do not recognize humans as a threat, or they don’t even recognize humans as a species. We have been injected into the story and into this world. The “incident” has already occurred. We missed the world going from panic to aggression to acceptance. The world has changed and it has changed because of the Trees. However the Trees have been on Earth for so long they have become part of life. The first issue travels around the world to four different locations where the Trees are standing tall. Each introduces interesting characters all affected in different ways by the trees. There is so much mystery surrounding this story.
The concept and mystery of the story has me completely hooked. Discovering that there is intelligent alien life in the universe should be the most amazing discovery, but at our point in the story it is a fact of life everyone has to deal with. The horror of the story does not come from an alien attack, the horror of the story comes from the attack that has not happened. Why haven’t they attacked? Will they attack? What are they doing? This issue sets up the slow burn horror which the likes of Alien mastered. Talk about slow burn, nothing even happens in Alien for 45 minutes. There is a 10 minute scene of them landing a space craft on a planet. But it is this slow build that creates the incredible suspense. I foresee this same build with Trees until eventually the aliens decide they would like to come out and play.
It is not surprising that I would enjoy Trees, but I did not know I would love it as much as I did. Issue #1 of Trees is definitely a set up issue. There is not much that actually happens in this issue. It is used to introduce the characters and introduce the world. Issue #1 is laying the roots of the story. It is the potential of this story that has me so excited. It is the lived in world which feels so real. Trees is one of my favourite new series of the year thus far and I think it is going to be something special. Do not miss out on Trees, I hate saying I told you so. I can’t wait to see what has been going on underground for 10 years…Trees have roots guys!
P.S. Those dog robots are real and this video was made 6 years ago!