Trees #3 begins with a little bit of cat and mouse as Eligia stalks the Professor, who evaded her random assault in the previous book. The hunt leads to two different contrasting lifestyles, the one the Professor lives and the one Eligia is currently living with Tito and the apparent fascist gang.
The Professor is cordial and welcoming as he enters a bookstore and chit-chats with the owner about how her kids are doing. On the other hand, Eligia is accosted by a member of Tito’s gang, who forcibly wonders why she is not with Tito. The differences in the contrasting lifestyles are made apparent in Jason Howard’s artwork. The Professor is able to enjoy his café while he paints the piazza of Cefalu; he is greeted warmly by the bookkeeper who has a constant smile on her face. Meanwhile Eligia is in an alley where trash is littered on the ground and graffiti is etched across the wall. The two could not be in more different places despite being in the same geographical place!
Warren Ellis transitions from the Eligia and the Professor and back to a familiar face, Chenglei! Ellis also fully introduces the reader to the beauty living in the same apartment from the first book. Ellis is able to explore the fear of something completely new and different through seemingly casual conversation and in order to overcome the fear and get a true grasp of the experience you cannot look from the outside, but must put yourself into the shoes of those you are observing. One important fact of note is both Chenglei and the Professor are painting or drawing the Trees as they have become a part of their cities’ skylines.
Jason Howard turns on the suspense with some fantastic panels of a rundown house and Eligia’s act of breaking and entering. Howard does an excellent job of using the light to his advantage; it ramps up the anticipation before the inevitable encounter. There is one panel that does seem out of place where Eligia seems awestruck or even mesmerized, but then the next panel she continues in her crouched hunting position with a knife firmly gripped in her right hand.
The expected encounter after Howard’s suspense-building finally does happen and Ellis is top-notch with his dialogue, delving into the psyche of both the Professor and Eligia making the characters both compelling and interesting, something he was unable to do in the previous book. On top of making the characters engaging, he adds fuel to the fire of mystery by hinting at a future that seems destined to happen. Ellis and Howard are able to recapture the promise of the first book and develop characters the reader wants to know more about and an overarching mystery that continues to develop new ripples.
Howard’s art and Ellis’ storytelling create characters and a storyline that are both compelling and interesting.