Trillium 4

trillium 4

Today, Shelby and Greg are discussing Trillium 4, originally released November 6th, 2013. Shelby: There are a lot of things happening in Jeff Lemire’s Trillium. The end of the human race, some sort of super-virus, travel through both time and space, and aliens. With all the science fiction action unfolding, it can be easy to forget this story is, at its heart, a love story. The mysterious temples and potential end of the human race suck me into the story, but the relationship building (Or possibly already built? It’s unclear.) between Nika and William is what sets the hook in my heart and keeps me coming back.

Things are not going well for…well, anybody at this immediate point in the story. One of Commander Pohl’s ships has crashed on the Earth past side, and Clayton is somehow stuck on the Atabithi future side. Some Atabithians are on the Earth side as well, and they team up with the natives, calling each brothers and sisters, to show Nika what it is she needs to see.


Meanwhile, Pohl is collecting as many trillium flowers as she can and beating the shit out of Clayton. There’s a weird energy coming from the temple, and she figures he has something to do with it. They can’t understand each other, so she’s letting her fists do the talking. There’s a weird moment when Nika and Clayton somehow swap places, and then swap back, leading her to tearfully confess to William that she’s scared, that they are all alone. She pleads with him to not leave her while Pohl decides the best course of action in the face of all this mystery is to blow the Atabithi temple to hell. A giant wave of whiteblue light washes over everyone on both sides of the portal, and Nika and William are seemingly obliterated in the face of it.

I am very intrigued by Pohl’s actions in this title. She seems your standard get-ahead-by-any-means military blowhard. Don’t understand something? Hit it until… actually, I’m not sure how she thinks that will solve her problems.

punch things you don't understand

Despite the drastic (and ultimately stupid) measures she takes, I have a lot of sympathy for Pohl. She is tasked with saving the human race. All of it. Without her mission, humankind will go extinct. It’s easy to see how one can justify punching or blowing up anything to stand in the way of that. Unfortunately, I think Pohl has made a very grave error in blowing up that temple. When Clayton blew a small hole in the Earth temple, we all thought it just ushered in a ship from the future. Now, I think that actually it created a weak spot in the time/space continuum. Or maybe the weak spot was there all along, and the temples were able to contain it; once one had been breached, energy from both sides began leaking out of the temples. I cannot imagine the damage blowing one up completely will cause. Lemire has billed this title as “the last love story,” and I think there’s a chance we’ve witnessed the event that makes that “last” accurate.

The interactions between Nika and William are especially touching this issue. We still don’t know why exactly they seem to already know each other, but I find that I don’t care so much when faced with pages like these.

don't leave me

It’s Lemire’s art that really shines here. The narrow panels, alternating between Pohl’s decision and William and Nika together, show this incredible dichotomy between aggression and anger and this really intimate moment. That is what it feels like to be in love, though, isn’t it? When you first fall in love with someone, the world could be ending around you, and all you would see was that other person. Lemire highlights this by having Nika and William in the cavern where they see the map; there’s no background, almost no light. It’s literally just the two of them, alone together. Lemire isn’t kidding around with this “last love story” bit. We can get all sentimental and mushy about the romance of it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s the last; he may want us to feel that it’s important to be with the ones you love when the world ends, but he’s not going to let us forget that the world will still end, regardless of whom you are with.

Greg, what do you think of this issue? Do you like the blend of science fiction drama with star-crossed (get it?) romance? What do you make of that image the Atabithian’s needed Nika to see? I know she thinks it’s a map to a black hole, interpreted through a sort of Creator-Mother lense, but that figure has the same marks on its face as Nika. Maybe instead of being a Creator-Mother god, it’s actually just Nika’s own mother?Greg: In my opinion, we need to retire the phrase “star-crossed romance,” because you just nailed it.

 You bring up an interesting point regarding the potentially entropic (get it?) ambiguity of the Atabithian image. Here’s a theory: what if it’s both a Creator-Mother god and Nika’s own mother? What if the switching between bodies, the feelings of terror and awe, the seemingly random ability to interpret the map, are all symptoms of a deistic awakening brewing? Nika points out the “mouth of God”; similarly, she possesses the most advanced abilities in terms translating and understanding all languages being spoken. This could all be looney space red herrings, or it could be the start of many beautifully converging strands.

 Truthfully, I’m a bit surprised at your sympathy for Pohl. Perhaps I’m at a disadvantage, having just jumped into the series, but I didn’t feel a lot of moral ambiguity or justified human behaviors powering her actions. She felt very one-note, and while I understand that a clock was ticking and she needed to act fast, her aggressively violent tactics did not feel earned or explained. For me, she’s an easy character to say “Boo, shame on you!” to, but a difficult character to say “I understand the basic human truths that your behavior externalizes from!” to (yes, this is how I casually talk).

While I sometimes felt as though Lemire’s writing was convoluted and not entirely accessible, I wholeheartedly agree about the beauty of Lemire’s art, particularly in its folk-like simplicity. Despite the business of aliens, spacecrafts, gods, and what-have-you, his art feels entirely human. I love the way that Lemire and Jose Villarrubia’s coloring doesn’t seem completely filled in; notice the way William’s green shirt tends to lose its hue near the ends of it, as if the artist stopped coloring in completely. It lends the comic a tactile feeling, leading us to the human core powering the story.

I love your mentioning of this being the “last love story,” in the way that the best and most tragic love stories like Trillium or Romeo And Juliet feel like “last love stories”. In these types of love stories, love is often the only positive force, the only emotional and physical glue between two lucky individuals as the world crumbles around them. Their physical beings may die, but their spirits will live and love forever. While you painted Lemire’s intent as being perhaps pessimistic (the world’s still going to end, ya dumb lovebirds), I find this wholly comforting and optimistic (at least you’re still dumb lovebirds!). Watching Nika and William slowly fade to white as they hold each other is a beautiful, almost angelic visual rendering of this idea.

Street Spirit (Fade Out)

To me, it’s as if Lemire is saying “not only is it better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all, sometimes it’s best to love and lose, all in one go.”

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?

3 comments on “Trillium 4

  1. I actually thought this was the end of the series for a minute, what with that fade to white and “the end” and all. To be honest, I still don’t think I’m fully convinced that it isn’t, even if Wiki tells me this is supposed to be a ten issue series. And you know what?: If this was the end, even with all the questions still hanging, I’d be satisfied with it. This was a really emotionally affecting issue, and while Pohl’s actions were frustrating beyond belief, I do believe that a human could act that way, especially in the middle of this huge, ridiculous incident.

    Still, while this could easily serve as the end, I’m really happy there’s more issues to come

  2. Honestly, I was a bit surprised at my sympathy towards Pohl as well. There’s no doubt she’s being overly-aggressive and making extremely stupid decisions in her haste; I’m certainly not trying to excuse her behavior, it’s over the line. It was the line that they had collected about 2000 trillium flowers, and that since that was “more than double the current human population” it would have to due. There are less than 1000 human beings left in existence, and she is in charge of making sure they survive. That is a lot for one person to bear.

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