Author Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel, Trillium, is an ambitious, romantic, sci-fi epic.
Too often, the more ambitious a project the more difficult it is to accomplish the goal. I give Jeff Lemire kudos for the effort that was put in to this and for the goal. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit of a mess and difficult to follow (or at least become invested in).
A young soldier in 1921 discovers a strange temple in the jungles of Peru. While exploring the exterior of the temple for an opening of some sort, a strangely (futuristically) dressed woman appears. They seem unable to talk to one another, her language being so much more different from his. She pulls a flower from the ground, a specific plant, eats it, and the two are suddenly able to communicate. She is Nika Temsmith, from the year 3797 — one of the last remaining human beings in the galaxy. She’s been in search of the plant … something necessary for the survival of the human race.
By means of a freak accident, the young soldier and Nika switch places, both now having to live in the others’ world. Complicating their misfortune is that it seems only they are aware of the transference — everyone around them appears to have known them their whole lives
It’s hard to sum up the plot simply. There’s a lot going on. One of the temples is destroyed, but there might be a number of such temples about the galaxy — a crude painting (why is it that a race that is advanced enough to create an advance time-travel device can only leave the crudest paintings by way of maps?) of similar temples, and a master temple/connector. Just before their futures look bleakest, the young man and Nika connect again. Although they had only met and were together a matter of minutes, there seems to be some sort of emotional bond between them. The book is billed as a romance, but it’s even less tenuous than that of Juliet and Romeo.
There are a few ‘gimmicks’ used in the book, namely the idea of flipping the book upside down at times to read some of the panels when Lemire is trying to show both future and past scenes on the same page. It is, as I say, really just a gimmick and not at all necessary. If the reader has stuck around this long, they already get the idea of the past/future lives and the ‘bond’ between the man and the woman.
The story vacillates between really interesting and gripping to dull and banal. I was interested and hooked (though admittedly just a little confused) until the two romantic leads switched places. From there it went downhill and I really wanted them to either switch back quickly, or give us a different storyline that would be interesting ABOUT the different-ness of the worlds. We got neither. We seem to forget about the Trillium plant and we are teased with the drawings of the multiple temples, and we spend way too much time doing nothing in the ‘wrong’ worlds.
The art didn’t help much. In a somewhat ‘crude’ style that felt more sketched than finished, it was extremely difficult to make out who was who. Especially in the future when they all had the same haircut and strange henna tattoo images on their faces. I get it…maybe that’s the point…that we lose our identity and individuality in the future — but this could either be ignored or explore, instead of appearing a random ‘look.’
I don’t mind an expansive, difficult story, but there needs to be a pay-off to make it worth our while and our time. This book didn’t give us the pay off.
Looking for a good book? Trillium reaches for the stars (and the future) but has trouble getting off the ground.
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author: Jeff Lemire
artist: Jeff Lemire
paperback, 192 pages