Trillium #1: Jeff Lemire’s True Calling
As much as I enjoy Jeff Lemire’s work on Green Arrow and Animal Man, his true calling might be his creator-owned comics. After wrapping up the wonderful Sweet Tooth, Lemire drops Trillium, a sci-fi adventure that takes two very different directions at the same time. In fact, the book itself is split into two very distinct storylines that meet in the middle. One features a dystopian future where a smart virus is killing off humanity. The other centers on a traumatized soldier seeking to find the lost Temple Of The Incas.
Instead of mashing the two stories together, Lemire has separated them into two halves of issue #1. I opened to the dystopian future side first. Set in the year 3797, story one is about Nika, a scientist looking to help save the world. Humanity has dwindled down to four thousand, thanks to The Caul, a smart virus that has adapted to all forms of vaccine. The only thing that seems to fend The Caul off is a flower called Trillium, found thus far in small numbers in deep space. Now, on the planet Atabithi, a tribe of aliens, located behind a wall in a city no one has returned from, are hoarding millions of Trillium. The Government wants to take the flowers; Nika is attempting to communicate a peaceful exchange.
Visiting the alien natives once again, Nika is brought into the city, where she is forced to ingest Trillium and then placed into a temple (a suspiciously Incan looking temple). Lost and without communication, Nika stumbles out into a jungle that could not possibly exist on Atabithi. It’s there that she runs into a bloody, and disoriented man with a sword. Cue the next story. Flip the comic over and begin reading about William, a soldier in the 1920s haunted by his experiences during the First World War. Aside from being a soldier, William is an explorer, one hellbent on finding the ancient Incan temple. When his team is attacked and killed by Incan natives, William manages to escape, and finds himself confronted by a woman in bizarre looking costume (Nika).
More goes on within the pages of Trillium, things that help tie the two stories together, but since you should be reading it, I won’t spoil anything. Once again Lemire shows why he’s a master storyteller. Trillium is exciting, visceral and cerebral at the same time. Even the age old idea of “humanity on the edge” is given a new lease on life. Both the main characters, William and Nika, are troubled for different reasons. Their discovery of the temple comes from diametrically opposed experiences. Even the natives they deal with are totally different. Still, their stories become linked, and that weird link is how Lemire hooks you.
Okay, let’s talk about the art. The appreciation of Lemire’s pencils is split among comic fans. Half like his surreal, often crude drawings, while others hate them, some even saying they held Sweet Tooth back from being a complete win. The work in Trillium won’t solve this debate. Lemire’s work is crude, angular and usually involves an interesting conception of human anatomy. Still, I find it refreshingly crude, especially for creator-owned work. To me, it rings like a great demo tape with awful production that somehow works for the songs. Lemire’s art works for Lemire’s writing.
Trillium. Jeff Lemire does it again. Bravo!!
(5 Story, 4 Art)