White Trees is a mini-series by Chip Zdarsky with Art by Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. I stumbled upon this book by accident. I saw the cover and had not read a fantasy comic in a very long time and thought I would give it a try.
I was not disappointed.
Zdarsky leans in to the monomyth of Campbell. There has been a great war. The lands are finally at peace and the heroes of the war have settle down to rebuild their lives. The Call comes to disrupt these pastoral lives ensconced in domesticity. The king has need of his greatest warriors and there is no time for them argue. I like that Zdarsky makes Krylos, our main character, a farmer. This tells you what to expect and sets you up for the surprises that are to come.
In the hall of the king, Krylos is brought back together with his fellow soldiers Dahvlan and Scotiar. He has brought them together to let them know that Krylos’ son and Dahvlan’s daughter have been captured by the enemy. They had been together when the raid happened but the soldiers nearby had not been able to rescue them. Sadly, the king can do nothing. The three must take up their weapons again if their children are to appreciate the future their father’s had fought to give them.
Zdarsky does an excellent job of playing with the tropes of the monomyth. He brings hardened warriors to the table and makes you watch as they work through what they lost in the war. He showcases the the trauma that is glossed over in the hero’s journey as these three work through the betrayals and hurt that have built up over the years. This co-opting of the tropes of the hero is seen best in the flashbacks of Krylos raising his son. They are on the farm and the boy is a wide-eyed innocent. His father’s scars form a barrier that makes it hard for them to bond. With his son’s journey not starting with the hero’s call, but a flight from heavy handed discipline and violence.
I love that this story presents the opposite side of this story as well. Dahvlan and Scotiar have built a life together. They care for Dahvlan’s daughter as much as her mother. They are accepted as a part of her life with not a bat of an eye. They are couple who have moved forward on from the darkness to enjoy this future.
The art of this book is good. Anka and Wilson have created a pallet that is both stark and gorgeous. The wilderness that the trio move through is haunting and yet begs closer inspection. Their character design is also solid. In particular, I appreciate how they have drawn Dahvlan. He is a barrel-chested bear/cat hybrid. .My favorite piece in this book are the panels where the three are confronted by spirits. They are offered carnal delights to sway them from their path. The colors and life in these creatures stand in stark contrast to the lands where the trio stand. Just wonderful!
Finally, Zdarsky provides some representation in this series. Dahvlan and Scotiar are a couple. They have a life together that is accepted as fact and there are no issues from this. Dahvlan had a wife and has a daughter. The only issues are that of a break up, nothing more. Both Scotiar and Dahvlan are a part of the daughter’s life. I should be so happy to see this in a comic book, but I am.
I know that this series has been out for a few months, But recommend that you pick it up and give it a read. It is hidden gem that seemed to be missed in everything that came out last year.
I bearly recommend this series!