Today, I left my current book, Arthur C. Clark’s Rendezvous with Rama, at home. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to read over my break, I ran over to the nearby bookstore and picked up Jeff Lemire’s Trillium. Smartest comic decision I’ve made in a while, and I’ve been reading some great books. This book is fantastic, so i’m taking a quick step out of the time machine to let you know my thoughts. I chose Trillium in particular because A) I knew it wasn’t in stock at my comic shop and B) I am starting to like Lemire’s work more and more, and C) it’s a break from the norm, which I have been looking to get away from. I usually don’t give spoiler warnings, because so far everything I have reviewed has been over 40 years old. But today, there will be some. So….SPOILERS AHEAD!
I sat down and read the first 2 issues over my break and was instantly pulled in. The premise is fairly simple – it is the story of 2 star-crossed and time crossed lovers. The man from Earth in 1921 and the woman from Atibithi in 3797. However, while I feel that many creators have great premises, they loose the reader in the execution itself. But Lemire, he gives us the concept, builds on it, tears it apart and rebuilds it again in even more brilliance for the conclusion of the story. Once I was home from work I sat down and blitzed through the rest. My ADD often distracts me while reading. Today, the only thing that took me out of the story was stopping to switch over my records (good music also helps me focus).
So here we go. The story begins separately in two of my favourite eras – the past and the future. For real though, 1921 is a not long before my favourite historic era, the late 30’s early 40’s. William Pike’s life as a soldier turned archeologist type explorer reminds me of characters I’ve seen in movies like The Mummy and King Kong. These classic movies came a few years later, but that’s the feel I got. This book reminds me of many other works, all in good ways. The other side of the coin is Nika Tensmith, who is a scientist from the distant future. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books taking place in the future of space travel, so it’s nice to read something that is a balance of my recent passion and an era I’ve been enamoured with since I started staying up late at night listening to classic radio shows as a child.
We follow Nika and William separately as they individually come across separate Incan temples. Nika, who comes across hers in an alien land while searching for the cure to an intelligent virus called The Caul to save the endangered human population. William, comes across his when he enters a tribal land looking for riches. They both enter and discover each other on the other side. Nika crosses over into 1921. Neither knows how to communicate with the other, which I thought was clever. It only makes sense that in 1876 years english as we know it will be a dead language, spoken by hoity toity scholars and children who are still being forced to read Lord of the Flies in school. Primitive sand drawings become their only form of communication. The only word they both know is “Trillium” which is a flower found at both locations. Trillium is both the cure to the virus in the future and the Provincial Flower of Ontario Canada, Lemire’s birthplace. They eat the flow and in doing so, experience each others memories. This is the moment they fall in love.
It seems weird, and I always criticize instant love in movies such as The Mummy, where Helen Grosvenor and Frank Whemple fall in love in a single scene. But it make sense here though. When I fell in love with my wife, it felt like I had known her all my life. Isn’t it logical that the opposite can cause the same result, that knowing someone’s whole life can make you fall in love with them? I don’t know.
This scares Nika off and she runs back to her side, which separates them. Eventually, Nika and William work their way back to each other, and other things start crossing over into the each other world as well. Williams brother, who had been part of Williams excursion, spends some time as a captive of Nika’s people, The tribal people and the Blue Aliens spend some time together, but most importantly Nika and William get to spend some time together. That is until Williams brother and Nika instantly switch places and her people decide to blow up the temple. This is where things get really good.
Remember in LOST, when Juliet blew up the nuke and they returned the next season doing sideways flashes instead of flash forwards or flashbacks? Where we weren’t sure what kind of recreated world they were in and it ended up being death? That is kind of like this, except not disappointing. Nika and her supporting characters (minus Essie, her AI companion, the Skeets to her Booster Gold) are now in a remade 1921 London with fueled blimps and a war on the Blue Aliens. William is now in the future with his supporting cast and Essie, fighting for the survival of mankind against the intelligent virus. Nika, William, and Essie are the only ones who have memories of their old lives, but also have complete memories of their new lives. Nika is thought to be crazy and William to be delusional and recovering from illness. Intermittent in these scenes, they remember defining moments of loneliness in their past. Knowing that the world isn’t right and longing for each other they fight their way back to the temple again. Against everything, they make it, only to find that the temples have been destroyed. However, the Blue Aliens show Nika the way and she returns to William, running through an area with many portals, millions of Trilliums, and a Black hole in the sky, the same black hole in the sky near Atibithi, where William and the humans are making their last stand against The Caul. When she makes it through she is able to assist William get the remaining human population to safety. Unfortunately, the cost of freedom is one of their lives.
Being Romeo and Juliet like, they both stay behind to sacrifice themselves. Life is not living if you are not able to be with the one you love. I don’t think that’s true, but maybe when you have such a connection like they do it becomes almost symbiotic. I don’t know. Either way, they sacrifice themselves, save the human race and are stranded in space. Remembering seeing the black hole in the sky as she passed all the temples they decide to risk travelling into the black hole, where they become new entities entirely, ala 2001: A Space Odyssey. They felt broken and lonely their whole lives, but together, those feelings melt away.
I don’t do it justice in the slightest, especially with my tangents and comparisons, but if you have not read this book yet, I highly suggest that you do. It is a miniseries, so you don’t have to worry about waiting for it to build up to get more, or having long breaks in between volumes. Lemire gets the job done and he does it well. The story is not too complex, he just tells it well, and gets the feeling into the places it needs to. He creates a whole new world, without bogging you down with useless details. He shows character development and doesn’t drown it out with unnecessary action or dialogue, which I feel is a plague in modern comics. His art style is great as well, adding his unique images to add to the exemplary storytelling. The only art style I recalled through his work was that of Kevin O’Neill. The remade London with rocket blimps reminded me of his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen work. Lemire uses great panel structure to juxtapose the goings on in both worlds, and to separate the stories in a brilliant way. In one issue, he does a flip story, where each side of the book is one side of the story, another he does the top half all as one side and then flip it over and read all the way back for the other side. and sometimes panels are reversed back and forth on the same page. Snyder and Capullo did it in one issue of Batman and it was good. Lemire does it throughout Trillium and its stunning. After reading this, I definitely need to go back and pick up other books that Jeff Lemire and Jeff Lemire have teamed up on, and you do too.
Thanks for reading my ramblings and joining me for this brief interlude, I’ll get back into the time machine for the next post.
Images from http://ca.ign.com/articles/2013/10/03/trillium-3-review, http://www.feeditcomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Trillium-Leadin-602×396.jpg, http://www.republ33k.fr/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/trillium-jeff-lemire-critique-review-2.jpg, and http://cdn.bloody-disgusting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/trillium1.jpg