Trillium #5 is a comic that functions superbly as both a unique composition and a component of a greater story. This issue helps to establish it as one of the best comics of the year, if not the last decade.
Trillium #5 recalls the structure of the first issue, in that it mirrors the separate stories of its two protagonists, William and Nika. Every grid in Nika’s story is mirrored in William’s, which runs beneath, but is upside down. Readers navigate the entire comic from Nika’s perspective, until it is flipped on the final page to read William’s in the opposite direction. Although there is a note concerning where to start, the comic can be read starting at its front or back. Both stories begin and end in the same way, creating a narrative loop.
The idea of a narrative loop is important when reflecting on how the story has changed. In the first issue, both stories ran parallel as well, but merged from opposite directions. There were two front covers and the separate stories ended when they met. This change in structure reflects the change in Nika and William’s relationship. The first issue concludes with their first meeting. The story of their lives so far ends in the middle of the comic at the moment they first encounter one another. Now that they have come to know one another and have endured some hardships together, their lives are interwoven. Even separated by time and space, they are awakened by one another in the first and final pages of their separate stories. Despite having the appearance of containing two separate stories, this comic reveals that those stories, over the past four issues, have merged and cannot be separated again.
Despite its dynamic structure and the momentum built by previous issues, Trillium #5 has the potential to become a boring comic. In some regards, it is a brand new first issue, burdened with the exposition of not one, but two stories. Although readers should be familiar with both William and Nika, their new lives are so incredibly different that everything but their personalities has to be re-established. Lemire’s art avoids the problem created by too many talking heads though. He includes blimp-boats and alien artifacts in an alternative Britain, while revealing a massive spaceship in the future. These visual delights help to brighten potentially dull pages.
Something ought to be said about José Villarrubia’s colors as well. Lemire’s art works beautifully based solely on his pencils and inks. His previous comics, like The Underwater Welder, create depth and tone as capably as any colored comic. Yet Villarrubia manages to bring something else to Lemire’s line work. Washed yellows and desert colors mark the desperation of William’s future existence, while rich blues and blacks provide a sense of wealth and formality to Nika’s place in the past. Villarrubia has worked with Lemire before to great effect in Sweet Tooth. In Trillium he proves, again, why he is one of the comics industry’s pre-eminent colorists.
In Trillium #5, Lemire continues to experiment with structure and work outside of his established comfort zone. This results in another success, one which will encourage readers to revisit the entire series and reflect on the purpose of its construction. This issue sets a standard to which other mainstream comics should aspire.