By Zack Quaintance — Everything about White Trees #1 screams, we need more comics like this! First, the format is great. White Trees is going to clock in at just two oversized issues for $4.99 a piece. Not bad, and, most importantly, your $10 gets you a 60-some page complete story.
Next is the subject matter. White Trees is a fantasy story that incorporates domesticity, sex, and romance. It’s the story of three warriors long after epic fighting has ended settling into relatable life—until their children go missing together. They must then reunite, putting aside personal concerns such as lost love, simmering attractions, and reluctance to charge in the battle again. It’s a gorgeously rendered-comic to be sure. I mean, on linework you have the incomparably clean Kris Anka with Matt Wilson colors. But a big part of what’s for sale here are the excellent dynamics between our adventuring party.
Now, complex relationships between the members of the campaign is familiar ground upon which to build a fantasy epic, and we’ve seen so many iterations of this within the genre. Indeed, White Trees doesn’t strive to do anything too novel this structure. Three is a relatively limited bunch of characters to play with, anyway. What it does is lean into the understated. Characters don’t resent each other for big flashy conflicts, they resent each other for quieter baggage, and the entire comic feels more authentic as a result.
In fact, between Daredevil and this comic, writer Chip Zdarsky seems to be on a mission to show us he is a serious man who contains multitudes beyond the hilarious cut-up he comes across sometimes in interviews and pretty much always on Twitter. This is a cerebral comic, to be sure. The conflict in the book is driven almost entirely by characters’ desires, from sex to wanting to stay home and live a peaceful life.
Even though there’s a scene where the heroes combat a fire breathing dragon, the real climax (unintentional) of this first issue is a quieter conflict that pits two sets of our heroes’ desires—physical gratification and saving their children—against each other. The scene is tense and erotic, giving us a series of sexual encounters with stakes in the plot. It’s a very different sort of set piece than we usually get in sword and sorcery tales, and I’ll stop there so as not to spoil anything about it. Just know that it works and is one of the most memorable scenes in a fantasy comic book so far this year.
Overall: A gorgeous and thematically-understated comic that lives in the relationships between its characters, White Trees #1 is a welcome addition to the industry’s current slate of fantasy options. 8.8/10
White Trees #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as Comics Bookcase.