Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
Lettered by Steve Wands
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Cover Price: $2.99
I took a break from my usual horror reads this week to dip into a bit of sci-fi with Descender #1 by Jeff Lemire from Image Comics. I have absolutely no regrets for that decision.
First of all, take a good, close look at that cover. See that? Yep, that’s watercolor and pencil, and it isn’t just on the cover — it makes up every single page of this book.
Real watercolor and pencil.
You’ve probably figured out by now that I was struck right away by Dustin Nguyen‘s brilliant artwork. Not only is it refreshing to see the subtleties in these images and colors, his depictions of both outer space and inhabited planets give Descender #1 a dreamy, almost fantasy-like quality that I can’t quite label. The feeling of being transported to another place and time occurs in just the first few frames.
Call me old-fashioned, but after reading so many digitally-colored comics in recent years, I’m an easy sell on art that is clearly created and colored by hand. This issue has certainly whet my appetite for more of that from Nguyen.
Jeff Lemire’s story begins at a powerful point in the plot: Society, getting along just fine, is suddenly attacked by giant robots from space and is nearly destroyed. One of our main characters, Dr. Quon, learns years later (and after robotics are outlawed and destroyed) that the giant robots that attacked his planet were somehow engineered using technology that he created. In almost the same breath, he learns that the robot technology that spawned those giants was not completely obliterated — one of the bots he created recently “woke up” and connected to the network.
As Dr. Quon’s world is being well and truly rocked, we meet a young boy named Tim. He wakes to find he is the only survivor stranded in a mining colony. He also discovers that the laws of the galaxy have changed considerably since we went to sleep ten years earlier, and now his kind are forbidden to exist.
This is pretty much where the story stabs me in the gut. Here’s this poor kid who is all alone in some remote mining outpost tugging at your heartstrings, but you also know that he’s quite likely the root of the catastrophic events from a decade earlier. Can you empathize with him? Even (maybe especially) if he’s not human? Should he be destroyed to prevent possible future tragedies?
I don’t know about you, but I prefer it when a story makes me ask myself the types of hard questions that came to mind in Descender #1. While I don’t have my answers just yet, I hope that the next installment will help me to at least determine which side are the good guys.