Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Trillium 6, originally released February 5th, 2014. Shelby: I’ve lived alone for about 3 years. It’s not always the easiest thing to do; sometimes you want more than anything to have some other person around. It doesn’t have to be someone you talk to, or even know. There’s just something about the presence of another person that is comforting. Now, luckily, I have dear friends who live pretty close, so whenever I get that urge to talk to someone other than a houseplant, I can do something about it. Not everyone is so lucky; there are some who, for reasons physical or mental, have no choice but to be alone. Jeff Lemire takes a look at what it is to be alone in his latest installment of Trillium.
This issue, like everyone before it, has a trick; every few pages switches from Nika to William, and every time it switches the pages go upside down. Nika is in an asylum recounting her last memory of her mother from her real life, which only serves to make her sound crazy. She tries to work out her seemingly disparate memories, when Pohl shows up to break her out of the nuthouse and take her back to the jungle. Meanwhile, William knows he has to get back out to temple to figure out his duel set of memories, so he tricks his brother Clayton into grabbing some shut-eye so he can swipe a rover and go. As Nika and William approach the jungle gate, the back-and-forth flipping switches to every other panel, until they are both looking in dismay at the ruins of the temples.
For a book that’s supposed to be a love story, the two main characters sure do spend a lot of time alone. For Nika, it’s been a matter of years that she has felt completely alone. In her tragic flashback, she talks about her mother’s death; her grav-line busted while they were exploring a planet with weak gravity, and Nika was forced to let her mother go to drift into space before her own line snapped. Nika is left totally on her own, both her parents having sacrificed themselves in order that she could go forward. What a burden, right? So much to live up to: what if she didn’t make anything of herself, and her parents’ sacrifices and her years of isolation meant nothing? It’s easy to see now why Nika was always so confident and driven. She’s been taking care of herself for a long while, and she’s got to live up to her parents’ dreams for her.
It was actually Nika’s mother’s advice that really struck me this issue. She tells her daughter it’s ok to be scared, as long as you don’t let that fear stop you from doing what needs to be done. It’s really easy to retreat when facing fear. When you feel physical anguish, you stop doing whatever is causing it, and the same applies to emotional anguish. Nika has spent her whole life not avoiding fear, not welcoming fear, but accepting it. That’s a really powerful message, one that resonates with me quite a bit. It makes Nika such a good match for William, whose PTSD means he’s basically in a state of constant fear. Or, at least, he was; this whole temporal backlash and memory swapping makes verbs tricky.
Much like Saga is a family drama disguised as sci-fi/fantasy, Lemire is giving us a love story disguised as science fiction. It’s more than a love story, though, more fundamental. When I think of a love story, I think flowers and candy, once-upon-a-times and happily-ever-afters. You know, stereotypical, romantic crap. Lemire is digging past that to the core of relationships, to the way two people can seem to complete each other. The way you feel your life can’t move forward without the other’s doing the same. They way when the two of you are apart you can suddenly feel like you are the only person in the world. The way the other person can make you feel like your world has been turned upside down. It’s an exploration of the basic foundations of relationships. There’s also time travel, so it’s basically perfect. What did you think, Scott? How did the book flipping work for you? I barely touched on William’s role this issue, do you think his confidence here is something he can carry with him once he gets himself all back again?Scott: There’s no question the timeline-swap has done wonders for William’s confidence. The initial confusion of waking up in an unknown world, coupled with the sense of urgency imposed by his colony’s imminent departure, has left him hardly any time to be afraid. He’s still had flashes of PTSD, so it’s certainly possible that he could revert back to his old fear-stricken self once he has a chance to catch his breath, but I think living in Nika’s shoes has really changed him. The old William probably would have accepted his fate and gone along with his brother’s plan, all the while convincing himself that the life he remembers never happened- that he must be going mad. Now, he knows he has the power to change his life, and even the cool-headedness to pull a fast one on Clayton.
This is a pretty powerful issue. Trillium has all the makings of a love story, save for the fact that there hasn’t been much romantic tension between Nika and William during their interactions. I’m not so sure love is what either is looking for; Lemire is clearly hinting at something deeper. At its root, the feeling of being understood, of not being alone, is a more primal human desire than wanting to be loved. Nika and William aren’t fighting to find each other at all costs because they want to share a passionate kiss, they’re doing it because they’ve shared a unique experience, and even if they don’t understand what’s happening, they understand something about each other that no one else could even begin to comprehend. They’re both experiencing some downright traumatizing psychological isolation. If I were in their shoes, I would fight like hell to find the one person who knew I wasn’t going insane, whether I was in love with them or not.
There’s a certain comfort in looking in someone’s eyes and realizing they are every bit as scared as you are. Simply seeing your own emotions reflected back at you can boost your confidence. That’s why people look in the mirror while psyching themselves up. All along, Lemire has been using flip-book layouts to play around with the idea of Nika and William being reflections of each other. To make matters extra confusing this time around, he even switches which story is upside-down at the end of the book, so that Nika’s panels are flipped and William’s are right-side-up (the panels also perfectly mirror each other, mind you). After reading the first 17 pages the opposite way, it really plays a trick on the subconscious. We’re not supposed to be sure who’s who anymore, or whether they’re separate people or two halves of a whole.
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?