Chip Zdarsky has gone through a meteoric rise over the past two years. Once assumed to be strictly a comedy writer, Zdarsky showed his skill in a wide range of comics, including Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Marvel 2-in-One, and Daredevil. White Trees marks Zdarsky’s return to creator-owned comics since his rise to stardom at Marvel, and is a bold flourish of his versatility as a creator.
Kris Anka and Matt Wilson need little introduction, having recently worked on Marvel’s Runaways along with a stellar body of work prior. Their work on line art and color art for this issue is incredible from the very first page, building a world and characters that are all absolutely gorgeous. The colors especially provide a specific atmosphere to every scene that completes the experience, with bright skies, or fields of green, or sepia hues over flashbacks. The colors convey a mood to every scene, with reds portraying Krylos’ anger just as well as Anka’s facial expressions (which are also stellar). Anka’s line art as a whole is beautiful — characters are distinctive and attractive, landscapes are incredible, and the world itself feels alive. His depiction of action sequences are incredible as well; the paneling starts to skew and overlap, breaking the structure of the rest of the book, adding to the chaotic nature of the action and keeping the book dynamic. Every page of this book is a delight to look at, and each one conveys the story even without dialogue.
Zdarsky’s writing on this book is just as excellent as the art. Krylos is an incredibly interesting character from the first panel he appears, and the further he is explored, the more interesting he becomes. The character work for everyone is just as good, but Krylos is especially interesting — a soldier who laid down his weapons and refuses to fight, a man mourning the loss of his love, and a father fighting to find his child. His regrets are palpable, even if they are not all explained, and his silence in many scenes speaks volumes. Scotiar and Dahvlan have just as much to mine as Krylos does — their relationship and marriage drama is like a soap opera in the best way, and their feelings for each other as well as their internal motivations are incredibly clear, through the final scene.
White Trees is singularly different from everything that Zdarsky has written prior — it’s not a comedy book, it’s not about superheroes, and it doesn’t take place anywhere comparable to the real world. It is a unique offering from all the creators involved, as Anka and Wilson have the chance to flex their design muscles to create characters and creatures that add a distinctive style to classical fantasy trappings. The book leaves a lot of potential for future stories in Blacksand, and based on this first issue the prospect of more is incredibly exciting.