There are a couple of truths that I hold to be self evident: wrasslin’ is fun, Faygo redpop is delish, and Jeff Lemire is good. Really good. While he does do writing and drawing separately for some stories, I enjoy his work in which he does both the best. This includes Essex County, Underwater Welder, and a personal all time favorite of mine, Sweet Tooth. So this week, I thought I’d check out a series I didn’t know very much about called Trillium. It was a limited series published by Vertigo Comics (one of my favorite publishers). So, what do I have to say about it?
That’s it, let’s go home.
OK, let me try to explain. This was a pretty ambitious story. It centered around two main characters, Nika and William. The pair are star crossed lovers, but here’s the catch: One is from the far, far future (3797), and the other is from 1921. This is a sci-fi story, so there’s lots of time travel involved. Basically, they are both explorers that discover a strange temple that serves as some sort of anchor in time. I think. William is looking for a lost Incan pyramid, while Nika is studying a flower (Trillium) that will save the human race from being wiped out by a sentient virus. See, it’s…well it’s kind of complicated. But, at the center it’s about two people who fall in love even though they are from different times, and what that does to the universe itself.
This book does a lot of interesting stuff. One of its biggest strengths is how it plays with the aspect of time travel. For example, the first introduction of William and Nika takes place in 1921, and they can’t understand each other. So it’s up to drawing pictures in the mud with a stick. Then there is the interweaving of time lines, in which we see a few panels of Nika, a few panels of Wiliam, then over again. They are separated by thousands of years, but we get a clear view of each of the characters’ actions side by side. Then there is the brilliant part where the page is split in half, and the upper half is Nika’s story, and the lower half (upside down) is Williams. Williams story progresses backwards, so you read Nika’s story, and by the time you get to the end of her part of the issue, you flip the book upside down and are at the beginning of William’s. It’s wonderfully done, and quite creative. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this done.
The story does a wonderful job of playing with time and parallels. Nika is working with a tribe of aliens that mirror the indigenous Indians in the Amazon Rain forest that William encounters. We also see glimpses of each character’s past intertwined throughout the story. Nika growing up in the future, losing her family, and William fighting in WWI and the horrors that he saw. There is also a very interesting part in which the two trade places, their histories being switched as well. Nika is in 1921, and William is in the future. This is a fascinating and well done take on the swirling of past and future. We start to wonder what is real as we dig through the parts of combined history.
All of this is to say that this was a very interesting and exciting story. I never felt uninterested of this tale. The impending extinction of the human race (from that nasty sentient virus) played out in the background, with a crescendo at the end, building a tense and dramatic story. You felt the urgency. And even in parts where extinction wasn’t on the line, you felt the very real pull of time as our heroes struggled against it. Jeff Lemire put together elements of very good sci fi with Shakespearean drama to craft a comic not quite like anything I’ve ever read.
His playing with time, reality, and with the very function of how a comic is laid out, lent itself to some very memorable and captivating storytelling. It’s sad, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t hear about this story very much. Of course, living in the shadow of Sweet Tooth is probably not all that easy to escape. Quick plug, if you haven’t read Sweet Tooth, go to your library and get a copy.
Of course, this story would not be as stunning without Jeff Lemire’s signature art. I don’t really know how to describe it, as it’s some of the most unique comic art out there. When you see Jeff Lemire’s work, you know it’s him. There’s something both beautiful and haunting about the way he draws both characters and landscapes. His thin, almost scratchy lines punctuate the story and move the eye. And, in the end, his drawings are just fun and enjoyable to look at. I could study his art all day. In fact, why am I writing this review? I’m going to look at his art.
Just kidding, I wouldn’t leave you. I think the reason I love Jeff Lemire’s work in which he writes and draws is because his voice fits so nicely to his art. The characters fell like they should look this way. The planets and cities need to be drawn like this. He’s a rare artist/writer that commands his work with unquestionable unity.
Now, this particular book was aided by the coloring. Lemire worked with Jose Villarrubia and pulled of some rather stunning images. That’s because this book was almost entirely done in water color. It might be all water color, but there were some parts that looked like digital coloring. But, what do I know? Anyway, the point is, there were some absolutely beautiful parts of this book that I just stopped and looked at. It’s rare for me to actually be stunned when reading, but there were at least a couple instances in this book where I just had to stop and stare at the painting. Watercolor is a favored look for me, and this book wore it well.
OK, now that I’ve gushed about this book so much, I think you get the picture. And that picture is done in water color! This is a book I was a little skeptical about because I’d never heard of it, but if you’re a fan of sci-fi, romance, or just Jeff Lemire, this is a book you need to check out. It’s a unique take on the star crossed lovers and time travel hook, and it’s something I just thoroughly enjoyed reading.