Trillium, Jeff Lemire’s newest original comic, was released with much fanfare in August due to its gorgeous paintings, refreshing concepts, and innovative twist on the handheld comic. The newest issue provides more evidence that the initial assessment was absolutely correct.
The most striking element of this issue is the manner in which Lemire is able to maintain momentum while continually adding new concepts to his sci-fi odyssey. It’s reminiscent of early episodes of Lost, except there will probably be a satisfying conclusion to this story. From body-swapping, to white outs, to blue aliens, and 1920s Native Americans being ‘bros’, this book adds a lot to an already complex story. It also does all of that without slowing the pace or confusing the plot.
Lemire is able to accomplish this by effectively using the medium he is working in: comic books. There’s no exposition to accompany the various new phenomena present in this issue, but each is presented carefully with its own distinctive visual cues. The effects are as mysterious to the characters as they are to the reader, but the omniscient presentation of panels helps to explain what is occurring in a way that could not be understood from any single perspective.
The final page is particularly enjoyable when everything goes white. This is by no means a new visual technique in the comic book medium. The most famous presentation of this trope would be Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which the Anti-Monitor destroys reality by turning everything white. It isn’t a hackneyed idea, though. Seeing characters erased from existence (even if the remaining four issues reveal they’re probably not dead) is a shocking visual and one that leaves the reader as confused as the characters.
The number of new ideas makes the pacing of the story feel a little slower than the initial issues, but it is not an overly problematic change of pace.
One thing that detracts from Trillium #4 is its publication schedule. Lemire’s original works have been published as complete volumes, not individualized issues, in the past and tend to be better structured for a single reading. Although Trillium has been constructed so each issue acts as an individual chapter, it’s still clear that it is meant to be read as one continuous narrative. That’s not to say there’s a problem with the composition or writing, only that the nature of publishing this title under the Vertigo imprint (where individual issues come first) will ensure the initial reading of Trillium is weaker than when it is republished as a complete story. This doesn’t apply to all books, as something like Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake cranks up the tension and horror every month with mounting cliffhangers and mysteries.
One minor flaw is the single non-character amongst the small, central cast: Pohl. There’s nothing to distinguish Pohl from the dozens of futuristic commandos—whose first instincts are to blow things up—that have preceded her. She’s essentially the same antagonist that was featured in Avatar, Fern Gully, or Dances with Wolves.
Trillium continues to show what Lemire is capable of when left to his own devices and prove it to be the most innovative comic being published under the prestigious Vertigo banner.