The White Trees #2: A Balletic Finale For A Book Of The Year

by Richard Bruton

Chip Zdarsky and Kris Anka’s comic masterclass concludes with a pitch-perfect second-part that delivers an expansive, thrilling, and breakneck speed final act. The White Trees really is fantasy perfection across 60 pages.

When I reviewed issue 1 of this 2-part fantasy comic, I described it as ‘a comic masterclass in efficiency and wonderfully impressive storytelling from writer and artist‘.

Wonderfully, issue 2 manages to deliver everything I hoped for in the conclusion.

Where issue 1 was a perfect example of economical storytelling doing more in terms of character and back-story in 30 pages than most comics would manage in a half-dozen issues or more, issue 2 is a veritable explosion of beautifully done action.

You know, this sort of thing…

As we discovered in book 1, Sir Krylos the bold, Sir Scotiar of Blacksand, and Sir Dahvlan the swift are on a rescue and revenge mission to save the children of Sir Krylos and Sir Dahvlan. We’ve already had the exposition, magnificently done in part 1, so we know all the longstanding and complex relationships between the three. Which means we now get to see action, and there’s plenty of it here, all just so beautifully done.

It’s a fabulously done thing, full of intrigue and misdirection, but the meat of it, I’ll leave that to you to enjoy discovering. Suffice it to say, this is a two-act play of the later stages of the quest, first the set-up, the infiltration and then the explosive ending, where the action is positively balletic, writer trusting the artist to deliver, and Anka surely delivers. Again and again and again.

Just like this…

But it’s the reason for the shield block that’s a perfect example of what makes The White Trees so good. Turn the page and you get this…

These are men on a mission certainly, and there will be deaths, bloody, violent deaths, but this is also a story with an emotional core that elevates it to far more than a feast of violence. In fact, the dedication, ‘To our dads’, gives you a simple idea of what The White Trees is all about.

Although this issue is predominantly an action-packed finale, chock full of exquisitely choreographed page after page of fight scenes done almost as though they were ballet, there’s an emotional core here that we’re never once allowed to forget. And that’s thanks to the incredible skills of all involved.

There’s even a chance to play it for laughs early on, with a particular take on the old trope of sneaking into somewhere with one of you as the prisoner. Again, wonderfully done, a gorgeous piece of comedic timing.

And as funny as that all is, the really clever bit of it comes with the turn of the page, as Zdarsky and Anka show that they’re just as adept at perfect comedic storytelling as they are everything else. Because a good joke is about two things; the setup and the punchline, but a great joke includes setup, punchline, and the reaction shot…

Oh yes, it’s all there in the facial expression. So good.

So, that’s exquisite pacing, a wonderfully told story across just 60 pages that creates a rich fantasy world, economy of storytelling to provide rich, fully-realised characters, emotional depth, and fabulously played out action with consequences.

And a huge part of it is thanks to the brilliance of Kris Anka’s artwork, an artist working in perfect synergy with the writer, creating things of intense beauty, emotion through the smallest of expressions, and action choreographed like the finest ballet… this is just a beautiful, beautiful thing.

All of which leaves me asking Messrs Zdarsky and Anka… when are you getting round to the next White Trees tale? Soon? Please?

I shall leave you with a couple of exquisite examples of Anka’s artwork from The White Trees, one of the best little books I’ve read this year…

 

The White Trees: A Blacksand Tale – Part Two: I Raised Him – Issue 2 (of 2) – script by Chip Zdarsky, line art by Kris Anka, color art by Matt Wilson, letter art by Aditya Bidikar, published by Image Comics

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