The Bookshelf: Trillium #1, by Jeff Lemire

Trillium #1

If I have any complaint with regards to comic books, it’s where to start.  What series are worth the time, money, and energy to read… what series will appeal to me… and how does anyone find something new?  I’ve heard a number of different answers to each of those questions, and the best answer I’ve heard is always, talk to the guy behind the counter at your local comic book store.

Oh… I’ve wasted my life

If you are anything like me, you may have an image of that individual already in place… Jeff Albertson, a.k.a. Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons (“Worst blog post ever!”).  Condescending, rude, and enamored with his own sense of superiority despite his total lack of social graces, or a girlfriend… a stereotype writ large.  I’m here to tell you… it doesn’t have to be that way!

After completing my read of the two volumes of Saga, I decided to dig into one of Brian K. Vaughn’s older works, Y: The Last Man.  After unsuccessfully searching for the first volume of the trade paperback (I found issues #2-10 at three different book stores, but no #1), I was ready to give in and order the hardcover deluxe editions (books #1-5) through a popular online book store… but I’ve been on a big “support your local book store” kick and trying to impress on my daughters that paying a few extra dollars is worth being able to look through racks in the hopes of discovering something new, or reminding yourself of something else you wanted to read, discovering an end-cap with staff picks (I found all sorts of great treasures this way back when Borders [RIP] {which was where I first began my love affair with comics} still existed), or best ever… actually talking with a fellow book lover who can recommend or dissuade.  And don’t get me started on the smell and feel of a real book store… that mix of paper, dust, mildew, and sanctimonious smugness… bliss.

A couple weeks ago, getting ready to buy my books via that online retailer, I bemoaned the fact that there didn’t seem to be any comic book stores in Marin County, where I live… I would have to drive either to San Francisco or to the east bay where I work, and I have in fact gone to a comic shop in El Cerrito, Stand-Up Comics, in the past… but more on that store later.  Turns out, there is a comic book store in Marin… and it happens to be about 10 minutes from my house!  Blue Moon Comics is run by a great guy, Sam.  That first day my daughter and I went into Blue Moon, Sam took the time to chat with us for about thirty minutes… and in that time I felt warmth, kindness, and a genuine desire to share… in fact, he makes a point of telling customers which books he is reading and loves that he knows others aren’t reading.  He didn’t disparage a book I’ve enjoyed, but made it clear it wasn’t one of his favorite… but at no time did I ever feel he was turning his nose down on me for not being up on the latest and greatest, or for not having an encyclopedia knowledge of arcane comic lore.   Great experience!  And to make it better… he carried the hardcover deluxe edition of Y: The Last Man!  Plus… he explained why he, and all those other book retailers, haven’t had the TPB#1… simply unavailable.

The flip side of that experience happened a week later… decided to see if Stand-Up Comics had the second book.  Figured it was close to work, and down the street from the gym I go to… I walked in… three people working, no other customers.  I spent about 5-8 minutes looking throughout the store (they didn’t have book#2, just two copies of book#3), went from rack to rack… hardcovers… TPBs… collectible toys… crap toys… and not once did either of those three guys even say hello or offer to help me with anything.  Instead, they were milling about talking with each other and watching some anime cartoon.  I walked out of Stand-Up Comics resolute to never give those weenies a single dime of my money… all they had to do was to acknowledge my presence… and not be Jeff Albertson.  They failed… and now my money shall go to Sam at Blue Moon Comics… now I have a comic book store to call my own.

A quick note… I don’t like disparaging any business with a bad review, I generally just don’t give them my money… but I was so annoyed with Stand-Up Comics that I feel it’s germane and appropriate to rip into them.  They were dicks, and that’s not a way to make money in what is already a difficult business to begin with.  That is all…

This week marks the first time I went to Blue Moon on a Wednesday… the day of new releases.  I went specifically to see if he had the fourth and fifth books of Y: The Last Man, and to pick up Saga #13 (which was awesome btw)… but also to figure out if there was anything new and worth looking into.  I had no luck with books #4 & 5 (although I will pick them up on Tuesday), but I was able to grab a copy of Saga… but at $2.99, that fell well below the $12 threshold for using a credit/debit card.  Oh damn… I had to buy more… which, really wasn’t that difficult with little help from Sam.  There are two other series I’ve started reading, and he helped me to find a couple of missing issues (one of which I needed to get digitally due to that issue being out of print and not in his collection)… but I will review those shortly.

There was one comic that was coming out that day… a book that I had actually read something about prior to going in on Wednesday… but one I didn’t immediately see when I came in… Trillium, by Jeff Lemire.  I had read that it was unique, interesting, and doing something different with the medium… and it was at issue #1… a chance to get in on something early… a chance to experience what I’ve always missed in the past… the opportunity to follow a comic series from beginning to end.  I didn’t see it… and I asked… the response I got from Sam, the other fellow behind the counter, and a customer was thus, “Man… yeah, we have it (runs out from behind counter to direct me to the rack)… and it’s great!”

There is a look of discovery people get on their faces when they have the opportunity to share something special… all three of these men had that look… and after having read the book, I get it.

William haunted by WWI

Written and drawn by Jeff Lemire, published by Vertigo, Trillium tells the story of two people… William Pike, a British soldier in 1921, haunted by his experiences in World War I and seeking an ancient lost Peruvian temple… the other, Nika Temsmith, a scientist in the year 3797, trying to save what is left of humanity, now whittled down to 4,000 people and spread throughout the galaxy, from a sentient virus.  The only hope for a cure lies in a flower, a trillium flower that is unavailable to humans and is being kept by a primitive alien race.

The book itself is a flip book (hence the strange cover at top).  Reading it one way gives you William’s story… reading it the other, gives you Nika’s tale… until the center, when they meet.  Although it is somewhat gimmicky, the effect is immediately gratifying and as mentioned before, genuinely unique.  Not only is the story melded together by the end, the panels from each side mirror the panels from the other story… in both shape, color, and action… not exactly the same, that would be a bit dull… but similar to Alan Moore’s use of mirrored images in Watchmen‘s Fearful Symmetry chapter.

Discovering Trillium

I find the art quite beautiful in what at first glance seems a tad sloppy and haphazardly rendered… until to begin to get an emotional response from panels with no dialogue, and feel the immediacy of Lemire’s art and how evocative it truly is… and going from 1921 or earlier, and the way in which he manages to convey that sense of time, to 3797 and the slight shifts in how the future in depicted is effective and mesmerizing.  I was wrong to consider anything about this book to be sloppy… it’s very much crafted and well honed in a way I wasn’t completely expecting.

Because the artist and the author are one in the same, there is a sense of true story telling going on… of something fully realized… and this being an eventual 8 issue run, this mini-series should stand out as being something to pay attention to.  The book is being touted by Lemire as “The Last Love Story Ever Told”… I don’t fully understand what is meant by that… but I can’t wait to find out.

Pick up Trillium #1… it is a wonderful experience, and one that I’m not sure would translate well to digital form.  In fact, I’m not at all sure if this book in digital form uses the same flip book notion of story telling or if it simply runs in a linear fashion.  If you’ve read this online or via your electronic device, let me know.  I didn’t read each story from beginning to end… there is a point in each tale that tells you to flip the book, thus directing you to the other side of the story… which time point you begin with is up to you… but don’t just read each part straight through, intertwine the stories as best as you can, and the reward is that much more satisfying.

Support your local comic book store (unless they’re dicks),
Cornelius J. Blahg

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