Admittedly, this will be a difficult review to write. Because this issue be filled with big, spoilery moments, and I’ll try not to give too much away.
However, I will spoil the ending of the last issue, because you should have read that if you’re reading this. #2 ended with Klara seeing a vision of her boyfriend, Sasha, who’d seemingly come back from the dead! Yet, in this issue, he walks away and disappears. Which is unfortunate, because I thought the story was starting to shape up into something impressive. But sadly his ghostly appearance was just to perpetuate the cliché of: “boring main character has visions to make them seem marginally interesting without doing any real development.”
If you’re a fan of Klara, that’s all the action you’ll get from her in #3, because Warren Ellis has some twisty tricks up his sleeve involving new characters. Some woman, Darya, comes home to find her unfaithful hubby, Oleg, stabbed by Mik (a thug from the previous issues). To confirm, we see a flashback that also gives us more information about the murder committed at the foot of the tree introduced in #1.
While this sounds and is rather elaborate, as Ellis jumps around introducing all these sordid denizens, none of them have enough personality or interesting character dynamics to keep me invested. Perhaps Ellis is trying to tell something like a bleak Nordic thriller but in Russia, but like I said, why should I care? The cast is made of either doofy a------s or boring stalwarts. Let’s not forget that Trees underwhelms in regards to its mystic Tree element. It’s as if Ellis is taking undercooked ideas from his ideas folder and uses Trees as a flimsy way to use them all up, suckering us into these bland stories with promises of sci-fi revelations that might elevate the material.
Although Jason Howard doesn’t have any wondrous, cosmic landscapes to illustrate here, he does a solid job, continuing to reinforce how roughly textured this harsh landscape is. Every surface looks course (and as Anakin would say, rough). Given this issue’s escalation of thriller tactics, Howard makes use of noirish shadows. His art here is less about conveying specifics and more about building a grungy, lethal mood. The coloring in the previous issues tended to be obnoxious at times, but here its use of bolder colors (like orange) make more sense. So props to both Jason Howard and Dee Cunniffe, who does color flats.
While the mystery is moving along in some aspects, the evolving story isn’t dark or engaging enough to cover for the ever expanding but weak cast of characters.