DESCENDER VOL.1 (TIN STARS)
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer/Design: Steve Wands
Rating: 10/10 Radical Robots
This week’s read has been a long time coming to revisit for me. At the time I was still working for my local comic shop, The Comics Place, there were quite a few comics that stood out to me. Of those standouts, one happened to be Descender, as it was one of the most purchased Image titles among others like Saga and Monstress. Grabbing some of the final issues of it’s run off the shelf at the time, I could see what made it so special. With the winning votes for this week’s read being the first volume of this series, it was time to descend back into Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s work. SPOILER PROTOCOLS INITIATED.
Waking up. That’s how it starts for Qoun, the head (or father as some call him) of robotics, as he leaves his luxurious abode to meet with the United Galactic Council (UGC) after noticing the giant robot in the sky. These giant robots have appeared among the inhabited planets of the UGC and will soon come to be known as Harvesters, and they have come to reap hundreds of millions of lives.
Booting up. That’s how it starts for Tim-21, a seemingly normal-looking boy who's actually a companion bot, made to be buddies with a child in need. Tim-21 wakes up as the sole survivor of a mining colony. Ten years have passed since Tim-21 went to sleep and as he navigates the dead bodies around him, he is reunited with his robot dog and seeks out answers to what has been going on. What he learns is far more than he expected. Robots have been outlawed after the Harvesters attacked. Widespread panic and anti-robot prejudice make the galaxy unsafe for robots now these days.
Waking up. That’s how it starts again for Quon as he is summoned by the UGC after being questioned for being responsible for the Harvesters after the attack ten years ago. He is needed to accompany a couple of UGC offices to track down Tim-21 who may hold the answers to the Harvesters in his robot DNA. The UGC aren’t the only ones after Tim-21 though as scavengers and anti-robot groups seek him out as well. While Quon, strong and silent Tullis, as well as tough exterior Telsa, arrive to help Tim-21, who knows if they can be completely trusted, Bots got to stick together, and no other bot has got your back in this adventure like Driller. He’s a killer (he says that a lot). With this interesting group now together, it’s time for Quon to unravel the mystery of the Harvesters by revealing he actually doesn’t know much about the robot he built because he stole the designs from someone else.
Jeff Lemire executes amazing world-building in this first book while giving a lot of his characters great depth pretty quickly. Lemire goes through each issue giving us the plot while providing small doses of the larger universe going on in the background. We learn a bit about each planet involved in the UGC as well as the growing split between the UGC and the other factions across space since the Harvesters’ attack. The nice thing about this info is that while there is one page that describes the planets within the UGC and what their roles are, the rest of it sprinkled nicely throughout these six issues.
Not only with world-building is Lemire a master of in Descender, but his character writing is so interesting. Tim-21 is a companion bot that was sent to be friends with another young boy. After waking up to see a dead colony and the body of his “mom,” he continues to care for Andy and presents real human emotions to Quon and Telsa. It’s what he is designed to do and you see him come into conflict with this when Driller, who hates humans tells him that he shouldn’t trust them. His robots are very non robotic in personality. So, while Lemire gives us the robots with real personalities behind those metal exteriors, we have Tullis and Telsa who have theirs hidden behind some tough ones. While Telsa is the only of the two to have some backstory shown to us, we don’t get to see her personality fully but it is set up in a great way to watch those barriers fall as the series goes on.
If there is one thing I would love to do with Nguyen’s art in this book, it’s to line each panel up on a canvas and view them at an art studio. His painted work in this is incredible and was the biggest standout to me spotting it on the shelves every week a new issues came out. He’s one of the only artists I am truly familiar with that does his work with paint. So many panels' images blend perfectly into the background with their soft colors of reds, pinks, and blues. The cool thing about Nguyen’s colors is that he doesn’t use that many in this story. They all seem to be the same few yet everything feels so much like you could actually picture yourself there.
Among his beautiful worlds he creates, Nguyen is also making really cool character looks. The designs for the robots are very cool seeing all the different designs he takes time to make. We only get introduced to a couple of different alien species but each one unique in appearance. Aside from the awesome character personalities that Lemire has made for them, Tullas, Driller and Telsa’s designs have already made them my favorites so far.
Descender’s first book easily ascends its way to the top of some of my favorite reads. From its beautifully painted pages to the mysterious adventure that awaits the young bot and his companions, this book is a solid story. So before you see this space odyssey hit the big screen from Sony, or you look to pick up Lemire’s newest series, Ascender, check out this sci-fi space opera that will put you in a whole other universe.