okay, remember it's been a bit. also, I really wanted to work in something about the mystery behind the markings on the survivor from Morgan's expedition and the ones on Nika.
Also, my notes were almost as long as the review, so there is a lot I didn't cover, but I am not trying to write a thesis....
Written and with art by Jeff Lemire
Trillium #1 opens with a space crew coming upon what looks like an ancient South American pyramid. The 12 panel grid, used to great effect for most of the book, is brilliantly used here to create the bad transmission effect often used in the space horror picture when a mission goes awry. Right away, it is obvious that this is a special book and different from anything Jeff Lemire, the master behind Sweet Tooth and Essex County, has done before.
Which is interesting given the tropes he works with here - Nika’s story is full of science fiction references, even beyond the mission gone awry and deadly mentioned above. She herself is very similar to Grace, Sigourney Weaver’s native sympathizing anthropologist from Avatar. Technology has moved on, iPads have been replaced by A.I. wristbands which seem to be Siri’s wet dream of functionality and personality and companionship. Then there are more dystopian concepts, a sentient virus in the Caul wiping out and hunting an endangered human race to the edge of the universe.
It is high concept and not only in the flip book aspect of concurrent storylines in different time periods. Nika’s in 3797 and William, the PTSD afflicted veteran looking for the Lost Temple of the Incas in 1921. There are allusions to Chariots of the Gods in Kuka Mama and the drug effects of trillium, the only way to make a vaccine for the Caul, which is unreplicable in the lab. I can see Grant Morrison shaking his fist and crying out “Lemire!” like a writer version of Lex Luthor when I think about the hallucinatory affect that Lemire gives the flower in its raw state.
William’s story alludes to The Land That Time Forgot and Indiana Jones. However, it also parallels Nika’s with the hesitant nature of those around him towards his goal. His spouse’s reaction to his passion correlates to Nika’s A.I.’s incomprehension of her motivations and desires. Both are shown to be impulsive and driven in their dedication to their personal mission. The opening doomed mission in 3797 matches Morgan’s failed attempt at the temple in 1921. Nika’s haunting by her mother is similar to William’s flashbacks from the war.
All of this is given to us in a strong and smart narrative that recalls great work of Graphic Fiction like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Hellboy. Hell, it is as methodically plotted out in this first issue as Watchmen. Lemire’s art is as impressive as ever. His ability to emote and convey actions through his chunky, chaotic lines is matched by Villarrubia’s tightening colors which appear water color like in some scenes and more like standard comics in others. It gives the book the otherworldly feeling it needs.
The book would be a ten if not for two teeny nitpicks in my opinion. The first is the road map. A few pages into each story, you are told that Nika’s story is Chapter 1 and William’s is Chapter 1.2. I don’t think reading it in the other order would ruin the book, but it is clear from that numbering that Lemire has a plan as to how the story is supposed to unfold. I don’t know if the impact of the story would be lost or not. I do know that fortunately for my compulsive mind, I did read Nika’s side first and will never have to know if I would be angered by reading it in the other order. The second is similarly themed, if I had written the book; I would not have had the last pages face each other on the seam like that. Sure it is a logical conclusion based on what we see in the two stories, but having the reveal be spoiled before I get the other half of the story made its impact less than it could have been.
A brilliant debut worthy of high praise and a look by all fans of the medium.