This article was originally published at DC Comics News on February 6, 2014.
With only two issues remaining, Lemire continues to mine every page of Trillium in an effort to show what comics are uniquely capable of. Although the story slows in pace, the emotional beats and page compositions make this a comic well worth reading.
Trillium #5 does an excellent job of highlighting Lemire’s gift for composition. His understanding of how space, scale, and paneling affect a reader’s understanding and interpretation of a story is unmatched at DC Comics. In particular, his compositions are capable of relaying emotions in a way that shows how comics can outpace rhetoric. Two particular examples of this trait in Lemire’s work stood out in Trillium #5.
The title page is a tremendous piece of art. It characterizes Nika and the major forces that have shaped her into the woman she becomes. The page is read between two captions positioned on opposite ends of the reading spectrum (top-left vs. bottom-right), pulling the reader’s eye across the enormity of space that engulfs most of the space. Jose Villarubia’s deep blues soak the page and provide a sense of endless darkness. Pale tan streaks of smoke cut through the darkness, implying panels in the night sky. This adds an extended sense of time, stretching the pause between the two captions. Amidst all of the loneliness is Nika, set at the bottom left, caught between the captions and buried under empty space. Taken as a whole, the page evokes a deep sense of sadness, which alongside the preceding sequence, explains Nika’s emotional state in a comprehensive and concise manner.
On page ten, Lemire focuses on Nika’s thoughts and feelings once more, in a revelatory experience, rather than a defining one. Dealing with the chaos of her life thus far and the revelation that she is living in the wrong millennium, Nika has been placed in an asylum. She slowly works to understand her situation, focusing on details until she gains an understanding of the larger picture. The top grid of the page pulls on those details juxtaposing elements of Nika’s face and hands with her thoughts. These specific parts of her body are what allow her to think and act, detailing her attempts to understand the world around her. So when the page is filled in panel nine by Nika and her creation in their entirety, it comes as a revelation to both Nika and the reader. Confusion becomes clarity as eight small panels of details explode into a larger whole.
The opening scene, in which Nika loses her mother at a young age is emotionally effective. However, it is misplaced in the overall story of Trillium. This particular moment has been set up as a minor mystery form the first issues of the series when Nika reflects on her loneliness. However, the mystery has not added to the story, where this moment does. Watching her mother float into space informs a great deal of her character and evokes sympathy from the audience. Yet this important piece of back-story is not provided until the series is more than halfway over. It is a flaw in the overall structure: a potent scene which would have been much more impactful in Trillium #1 or #2.
Most of the story outside of this flashback functions in a similar manner to the fourth act in a Shakespearean play. Pieces are moved into place so that the ending can play correctly. Unfortunately, this tends to be the most uninteresting part of a play or story. In the case of Trillium #6, the story is obviously working at preparing the climax. Although justifiable, that decrease in momentum is still problematic.
Trillium continues to be an outstanding series that capably uses the comic medium to reinforce the emotions and character beats of a genre-rich love story. Although this issue is slower than previous releases, it’s no reason to believe the finale will disappoint.