Trillium by Jeff Lemire – A Book Review

All the accolades celebrating this book are accurate – it is a very special work.

To briefly summarize, Trillium is a story that takes place in both 1921 and 3797.  William Pike is a soldier trying to find himself again after the Great War, and Nika Tensmith is a scientist trying to use the plant called Trillium to develop a vaccine against a sentient virus that has eradicated humanity throughout the universe.  Both are examining a temple, though time and space separates them.  Through a cosmic convergence, they are united, torn apart, replaced, and united yet again all while trying to stave off the deadly approaching virus.

I’ve heard some call Trillium a love story, and that is as good a label as any, I suppose.  But Trillium is so much more than that.  Trillium certainly celebrates the “love at first sight” aspect of these characters, but it also renews our faith in the tenacious human spirit, our capability to stand together and overcome insurmountable obstacles, and our willingness to sacrifice for the good of others.  It speaks to the beauty of bonding with one another, the despair of abandonment, and the desire to become something “more.”

This book truly moved me in all of the ways I’ve mentioned, but it also impressed me through a purely technical aspect.  Trillium is, plainly stated, a perfectly constructed, paced, and executed book.  The panels’ layouts are brilliant and the structure is astounding.  Lemire plays with order and sequence in a fresh, innovative way that both challenges and delights the reader.

Furthermore, Lemire defies genre at every opportunity.  It features trench warfare.  It has futuristic vehicles.  It offers Peruvian natives.  It uses an alien species.  It even tosses in a little steampunk at one point.  The book consists of many elements, many different kinds of story, yet it all blends together to deliver a unique, provocative, engrossing tale.

Trillium really is unlike any other.  Students of the medium will gain much from studying this work, and lovers of story will be utterly satisfied.

Click the image to view the author’s latest book at Amazon.com.

Fables: Cubs In Toyland (Vol. 18) by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham – A Book Review

Perhaps the most satisfying Fables volume I’ve read in some time, Cubs In Toyland is also the most emotionally potent.

In this edition, Bigby and Snow White’s child, Therese, travels to Toyland in search of adventure after she missed being named the North Wind. When first she arrives, the toys treat her as royalty, and she revels in it. However, the rude, insufferable child soon learns that Toyland is not all that it seems, and that the toys there are the cast-offs, unwanted, perpetrators of horrendous deeds. Therese is foretold to be their savior, but it soon becomes evident that she has no hope of survival in this land and no way to return.

One of her numerous siblings, Dare, takes it upon himself to find and rescue Therese because he’s always considered himself the leader of the pack. He does indeed find her, but Cubs in Toyland ends in a heartbreaking, unexpected tragedy.

I am a loyal Fables reader, and though the series has lost some steam in my opinion, Cubs in Toyland hearkens back to everything that first won me over.

 

https://i2.wp.com/static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/0/40/2812678-fables_vol18_cit.jpeg

 

Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly – A Book Review

Set in Brooklyn, Prince of Cats lauds itself as The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s B-Side.  Though it uses Shakespeare’s classic work as the inspiration, Prince of Cats is its own entity, a graphic novel unlike any other, an adaptation, a reimagining, a twist on a story that was already a twist itself.

And though there have been many iterations of the source material, I’ve never experienced anything quite like Prince of Cats.  Sure, the idea of the Montagues being white and the Capulets black isn’t all that innovative, but setting the play in Brooklyn during the early 80s and mixing in a little kung-fu and hip hop with ample katana blades is a step in a daring, new direction.

Furthermore, Wimberly made a masterful move when he decided not to focus upon Romeo and Juliet, but instead gives the spotlight to two incredibly important but often underestimated characters – Tybalt and Rosalyn.  I believe these are two of the driving forces of the original play, and I’ve never seen anyone give them their due like Wimberly does in Prince of Cats.

As you have probably guessed, I’m a former English major and devote a lot of time even today to studying Shakespeare.  I can tell you that Wimberly weaves Shakespeare’s original dialogue into his own seamlessly, and at times I had to double-check what was true to the play and what Wimberly did on his own.  Also, as you know, there are quite a few times in the original work when we have no idea what Tybalt is up to.  This book gives you insight into those moments, and his connection to Rosalyn is titillating.

Now, right now, a few of you are probably thinking this would be a great book to introduce into your classroom as supplemental material to your Shakespeare unit.  There are a few warnings you should heed.  There is blood in this book – lots of it.  People lose limbs.  There is language in this book – lots of it.  There is nudity in this book, and while fleeting, it is still there.  To use this in a college class is pushing it, to use it in a high school class would be dangerous for your career.

Even with that being said, it’s now counted amongst my favorite adaptations of Romeo and Juliet.  And, because of it, because of this book and the gaps that it fills in concerning Rosalyn and Tybalt, I can never look at the two characters the same way again.  Before this book, Tybalt was always a stone cold killer in my mind, a man who loved trouble and adored violence.  In Prince of Cats, there is still that aspect to him, but there’s also something more, something much more, which makes him the deserving title character of this book.

DMZ: On The Ground (Volume I) – A Graphic Novel Review

I picked this up on a whim while visiting my local library and DMZ: On The Ground grabbed me by the jugular and wouldn’t let go within two pages.

Even though the premise of DMZ has been done before, author Brian Wood delivered his take on a second American civil war with such adrenaline and ferocity that it is unlike any of its thematic predecessors.

The idea is that because our armies our stretched so thinly overseas, radical militias within the heartland separate from the USA and spread all the way to New Jersey.  Manhattan becomes the DMZ while the rest of New York is still the United State’s.  A young intern named Matt (Matty) Roth flies in with a journalism crew and then becomes stranded after the entire crew is wiped out.  Instead of fleeing during the next available extraction, he decides to become embedded within the war-torn DMZ and report what’s truly happening.

I read a lot of graphic novels, and it’s been a long time since one completely captivated me within instants of starting it.  Brian Wood executes a tight, fast-paced, brutal storyline with realistic dialogue.  Wood also impressed me with the sheer logic of what things would really be like if this actually ever occurred.

Artist Riccardo Burchielli draws some of the most detailed, tense renderings I’ve ever seen.  While not meant to be photo-realistic, he amazed me by faithfully depicting a city in shambles.  His half-destroyed buildings, burnt cars, litter, and bomb craters sucked me right into the story and made me feel like I was living it, not reading it.  This is one of the highest compliments I can pay an artist.

Along with Fables and Ex Machina, DMZ has moved to my “must-read” list and I urge you to read it as well.

The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

I’ve heard much about The Sandman series for many years, and so last summer I finally decided to experience it for myself.  The first volume was adequate, but it didn’t “wow” me as much as I expected.  Probably because, by this point in time, Gaiman’s concepts had been copied and recopied so many times by so many other writers that the original held little distinction.

 

I took solace in the fact that Volume III of the series was to be the one that set The Sandman beyond anything else in the comic book medium that came before or after.  Sadly—for me—it didn’t electrify.  Good?  Certainly.  Great?  No.

 

So, believing the opinions of several friends can’t be wrong, I still pressed on.  Volume IV, Season of Mists, proved to be the one.  This is the volume that completely and utterly “wowed” me.  From the beginning to the end, this was a tightly woven story packing emotional, philosophical, intellectual, and conceptual punches that did not fail to capture both my imagination and respect.  The character of Morpheus is visually interesting, but it was not until this volume that he began to fascinate me as a well-rounded character.

 

The premise is simple in Season of Mists.  Morpheus realizes he long ago made a mistake for which he must atone.  It is how he deals with coming to this decision and the ramifications of going about executing it that astonished me.  Gaiman’s imagination is limitless in Season of Mists, pulling from established myths and legends as well as creating his own.

 

The art, like all of the volumes, is rather hit or miss.  Luckily, the image of Morpheus is so striking and the stories so good that the art is easy to overlook.

 

Finally, I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of Harlan Ellison by any stretch of the imagination, but his introduction to this volume is delightful and is alone worth the price of the entire book.