With war on the horizon, two children have been kidnapped. It’s now up to three heroes, past their prime, to rescue them. But have the years of fighting taken too much of a toll on them? Your Major Spoilers review of The White Trees #1 awaits!
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Editor: Allison O’Toole
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: August 7, 2019
Previously in White Trees: Black Sand is a magical land. One that has seen so much war that nature itself has been altered by the sight of the violence. Even with those old conflicts done with, there’s no rest for the old heroes. Three in particular: Krylos, Dahvlan, and Scotiar have been called out of retirement for a mission. This time though, the stakes are personal
A CALL TO ACTION
The first page of White Trees #1 offers a pretty familiar scene: A lone farmer, Krylos solemnly tending to his field, when a messenger approaches. Cut to the court of the king, where Krylos is joined by two others: A massive cat man named Dahvlan and his partner, an elf named Scotiar. It’s revealed to the three that Krylos’ son and Dahvlan and Scotiar’s (step)daughter has been abducted by The Trilonians, furthermore, The Trilonians have also been preparing for a war against our main characters nation. It’s revealed that the two children seem to have begun a relationship with each other and have been targeted due to the past actions of their parents. Dahvlan and Scotiar are quick to action and begin preparing to search for their missing daughter, Krylos on the other hand is more reluctant to take up the cause. By the next morning though Krylos has decided to join the other two and they all set off. As they begin to pick up the trail of their children we learn that while the three did in fact accomplish great things during the wars of the past, they also lost much and their eventual parting was not on good terms. We’re introduced to Milola, Dahvan’s ex-wife and his daughter’s biological mother, who is also on the trail of their child. We also begin to see flashbacks to Krylos and his son during earlier years and it’s clear that their relationship was not the best. The trio continue their journey where they encounter a dragon. Dahvlan and Scotiar engage it in combat while Krylos hesitates. Eventually, with his two allies trapped Krylos is forced to act and instead of killing the beast, he frees it from the chains that were keeping it grounded. Later, the three find themselves in a forest. While there the three are beset by spirits who seem determined to tempt them using sex and their deepest insecurities. They manage to break the spell and settle in for the night.
I’ve been a fan of Kris Anka’s for awhile now, his work on The Runaways and The Wicked + The Divine being highlights of those series’, but I was curious if his style would translate to a fantasy setting. I’m happy to say my skepticism has been put to rest. The world and characters here are certainly belong in a fantasy setting, but also don’t feel over the top, or lacking sense. Even the nudity (which there is plenty) feels natural and not at all exploitative. The color work though is what puts the art in this book over the top. Having good coloring is one thing, it’s a completely different thing when the coloring helps tell the story. The book is awash in faded pinks, soft oranges, wildflower blues, and sunbleached purples. Just as our heroes are past their prime and lacking the intensity of their youth, so does the sky and land seem trapped in a constant sunset.
A BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING
The White Trees #1 is a book that isn’t devoid of tropes. There’s the usual fantasy tropes of warring nations, fantasy beasts to be slain, and heroes of legend. There’s also clear influences from ronin films and even westerns like The Searchers and True Grit. Our characters are damaged, weary, cynical, disillusioned, and flawed. They take no pleasure in their adventure and know that it’s their own sins that have set them on their path. What makes this book special though is how it doesn’t try and hide its influences, it puts them front and center while also blending them together in one coherent theme. This is a dense book, with a lot of information being presented not only about the characters, but also the world they inhabit. What’s nice about this is that Chip Zdarsky never resorts to large chunks of text to convey this info. We are given exactly the information we need, while everything else is left to the imagination with just a couple hints to guide the way. For an opening issue of not only a story but a whole world, this is an achievement.
BOTTOM LINE: A THINKING PERSON’S FANTASY STORY
There’s plenty of fantasy hijinks going on here that will appeal to fans of the genre, but that’s just not what this book is about. There are deep, personal themes on display with this book. It’s a story that could easily slip into multiple genres, but its setting makes this feel very different to other stories I’ve read with similar ideas. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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The White Trees #1
A strong piece of storytelling that not only tells a tragic, personal story, but also lays the groundwork for a whole world. Solid art paired with gorgeous colors.