Trillium 2

trillium 2

Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Trillium 2, originally released September 4th, 2013.

Scott: We’ve all heard hundreds of love stories. One message that seems to be consistent throughout just about all of them is that love can overcome any obstacle. Differences in culture, race, age, none of these things matter in the face of love. Some stories even explore more unorthodox impediments- love that only exists in dreams, love separated by different time periods. Love always seems to prevail. Well, Jeff Lemire seems intent on providing the most obstacle-laden love story any of us have ever seen. In Trilium 1 he presented two characters who are very far apart (~2000 years, different planets). The second issue shows us how a love could be born, while giving us a better idea of just how much it will have to overcome.

Nika and William are having a heckuva time trying to communicate with each other. Since Nika doesn’t understand English and her A.I. is down, they have to get creative in trying to figure out who the other is and why they ended up outside of the mysterious temple. Some of Nika’s tech still works, and it tells her that she’s on Earth, in the year 1921, which William confirms. Nika deduces that the temple must be a teleportation device, but is angered when she finds that the door she walked through at the top of the temple is now sealed. She eats a trillium flower pedal, which causes some really trippy stuff that allows Nika and William to see each other’s experiences.

Weirdest burp ever

After that, Nika and William seem to know each other, like they’ve remembered a past they shared. A new door opens at the base of the temple, and Nika runs through, leaving William behind. Nika returns to the Atabithian community, where Essie tells her she was only gone for about a minute and, more urgently, that the Caul has reached their solar system.

So, after a first issue that followed Nika and William in two entirely distinct stories, Trillium 2 shows the two of them together for almost the whole issue. If this is truly to become “the last love story ever told” then this time together is certainly necessary, although Lemire doesn’t make the feeling-out process easy for his main characters. I figured Nika and William would have plenty of trouble understanding each other just based on where (and when) they are from, but the language barrier added another layer of complications I didn’t see coming. You have to give Nika and William credit for their persistence- it was funny how long they continued speaking, as if the other would suddenly start understanding what they were saying.

He just keeps talking

Speaking of funny, I thought Lemire had a nice recurring joke going with Nika and William trying to place where they had seen each other before. I mean, of course these two people, from different millennia and different solar systems, had never met. But the more I thought about it, the weirder that joke became. Why would they BOTH continue to insist that they recognize each other, even after establishing that they don’t recognize the language the other is speaking? Wouldn’t that be enough to suggest that they don’t run in the same social circles? Maybe it’s possible that this isn’t a joke, I started thinking. There’s wacky stuff going on with time and space in this title already, so perhaps Nika and William really have crossed paths before. And then Nika eats a flower pedal, they look into each others memories, and BAM! They start looking at each other like this:

Their eyes are terrifying

If you ignore the fact that William has no pupils, that’s a powerful image, and a very significant moment. It suggests that they do know each other and, if you ignore the fact that William vomits in the following panel, that they care deeply for each other. I don’t know how this is possible or what it means, and it seems more than likely that the next issue will follow these characters in two separate stories again, but the seeds of a great and truly unique love story have definitely been planted.

I continue to be fascinated by Lemire’s layouts. Last month, Patrick pointed out how the two parts of the issue used the exact same layouts. This issue doesn’t have the same symmetry, but there still seems to be something interesting happening with the way the pages are set up. Many of the pages feature circular or half-circular panels interrupting the rectangular panels at different spots on the page. It looks a bit like a rising and setting sun, or like it could be part of a code, like a message in some alien language. This title is full of symbols, from those on the doors of the temple to the mapping of constellations. The characters even resort to drawing in the dirt to illustrate their stories, using rudimentary shapes to represent ships and planets. This obsession with symbols is even manifested in the way Lemire designs his pages.

So Shelby, I know you were a big fan of the first Trillium installment. Did part two live up that lofty standard in your eyes?

Shelby: Absolutely! Only two issues in, and I am delighted to see where this title is going. Lemire is appealing to both sides of my heart, the nerdy side and the slightly smaller girly side. The nerdy side of me drools at the possibilities this story is presenting. We’ve got a far-flung future, that is both a spacey science fiction and a potential all-life-ending apocalypse. We’ve got an alternate history with jungle adventures in Indiana Jonesian archaeology that doubles as a psychological look at the effect of the horrors of WWI. We’ve got wise aliens and basic time travel. With Nika and William seeming to recognize each other despite never having met, we’ve even got hints of some sort of time loop paradox. There’s something here to appease every kind of nerd; even more impressive, we’ve gotten all of that in two issues, one of which told stories that met in the middle, the other of which has the two characters not understanding a word the other is saying.

If that was all this book was, I would be impressed. But no: Lemire has to go and turn it into a love story. Without out tugging at heartstrings, this book would just be an ambitious science fiction tale, one that could get out of hand quickly. Lemire grounds it with romance, keeps the characters from getting lost and becoming caricatures. This book has also been billed as “the last love story,” which means this is going to turn tragic; everyone knows there’s no romance quite like tragic romance. Now, I’ve looked high and low to discern some sort of additional symbolism to the trillium flower, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything reliable. The only thing I did learn is the plant itself is quite fragile; picking the flower generally damages the plant enough to both kill it and prevent another from growing in its place. If there is a more tragic and final appropriation of a traditionally romantic gesture, then I don’t know it. I’ve got all sorts of foreboding ideas of how this story is going to turn out; with Lemire at the helm, I can’t wait to get there.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

4 comments on “Trillium 2

  1. I like how clearly Lemire sets up who we get to understand on each page, the red, spacey gutters accompanying Nikia’s pages and the blue jungle gutters on William’s. I feel like we’ve seen this sort of thing before: the two people communicating with eachother despite a language barrier (like the Colin Firth story in Love Actually). But there’s something cool and unique in that we also can only understand one of them at a time. Like, even though we have the capacity to read both of their languages, we only really have the ability to interpret each character through the eyes of the other.

  2. Just learned that the white trillium is the emblem and official flower of Ontario. Lemire is such a Canada dork. Interestingly, the genus trillium is only found in temperate areas of North America and Asia, and is entirely unrepresented in South America.

    • I just can’t believe it’s a real flower! Trillium has got to be the best sci-fi flower name ever–which totally made me think Lemire made it up. This flower was just begging to have a sci-fi story named after it, and I’m sure the Trillium fields all over the world appreciate it being a great story to boot (it’s a good thing; their feelings bruise just as easily as the flower itself)

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