Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Line Artist: Kris Anka
Color Artist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Proofreader: Allison O’Toole
Production Artist: Shanna Matuszak
Publisher: Image Comics
White Trees #1 takes us to the high-fantasy world of Blacksand, where we meet the legendary warriors Sir Krylos the Bold (a gruff and Kratos-like character), Sir Dahvlan the Swift (a large, lion-human mix of a creature), and Sir Scotiar of Blacksand (a somewhat androgynous and always shirtless Legolas type). Their wars are 20 years behind them, their children are grown, and Krylos is trying to live the peaceful life of a farmer. However, their king informs them that their old enemies have kidnapped their children, and since there are no demands, there’s nothing really the kingdom can officially do. Which is why the three former warriors know it’s up to them to retrieve their children before it’s too late.
One part of White Trees that will definitely stay with you is that there are certainly … “trees” … but we’ll get to that in a bit.
For a high fantasy book, White Trees is not overly complicated. The issue clocks in at 40-pages and is issue one out of two (will there be more? I’m not sure at the time of writing), but it’s a pretty quick read where you feel familiar with the characters by the end. Sure, there’s world-building and a map included — because obviously it wouldn’t be high fantasy without a map — but the story is more focused on the actual themes rather than bludgeoning you over the head with the world-building aspects right up front.
The themes keep the story strong. There’s a good deal of complicated relationships — Krylos and Dahvlan’s kids are shacking up to their surprise, Dahvlan and Scotiar are in a relationship and there’s a tension about feeling like a full family, etc. — and these complications are the cornerstone that makes the story feel grounded and down-to-earth. Sure, we get the “Trilonians are back at war” and other such background information, but it’s given to us in bite-size bits.
Zdarsky also wants you to know just how fantastical this world of Blacksands really is. There are dragons, there are beautiful villages right on the edge of a cliff, there are various cat-like creatures, and there are very horny wood nymph(o)s. You know how people sometimes accuse HBO shows of going very heavy on the sex early on in the show’s run as a way to get people interested? Well, one could argue this book takes that approach, too. Yes, there is full-on peen, and the art leaves nothing to the imagination, but it doesn’t exactly feel titillating as much as it presents another obstacle for our heroes to overcome.
The artwork from Anka and Wilson does a lot of heavy-lifting for the story — and rightfully so. The action sequences are easy to follow, the colors pop, and there are certain bittersweet scenes that caused me to pause and go back again. One particular scene I remember has to do with staring down a dragon … it’s amazing how many powerful emotions you can gain from artwork alone. I also enjoyed Bidikar’s creativity with the lettering. There were times where words were much bigger than others for emphasis (rather than the standard bold and/or italics), but the words still flowed in a way that is easy to read.
White Trees is a very fantastical, and it presents a mature, new high-fantasy realm for us to dive into. While certain graphic scenes might turn some readers off, the themes of family and belonging are universally engaging.