Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Political unease. A fragile economy. Tension over how technology has taken over society. It could be us. But not quite.
When nine moon-sized robots — Harvesters — appear, each in the sky of one of the core planets of the United Galactic Council, billions panic. When they disappear, their worlds get turned upside down. AI is criminalized, and robots everywhere get hunted down to prevent tragedy from ever hitting again. So what does one little boy and his little dog have to do with the end of the world as they know it?
With Sweet Tooth and Trillium in his rear view mirror, Jeff Lemire launches his next sci-fi extravaganza with Image Comics — Descender. In what is an exceptionally strong introduction to a galaxy and civilization far, far away, Descender #1 lays out the geography and politics for an entirely new and fascinating world that’s teetering on the brink of disaster.
The atmosphere is clearly recognizable with political infighting and social scapegoating dominating the social interactions we see in issue #1, leaving science in the dust of misdirected panic. While that sounds just a little too familiar, Lemire rides the line between allusion and fiction just perfectly. And at the center of it all is the abandoned Tim-21, pulling along his robot dog Bandit, and taking a very practical view on the state of the universe as it’s told to him.
It already appears that Tim owns his android nature far more than the boy companion of A.I. for instance, which elevates him from a state of “Pinocchio” to one of a far more interesting protagonist already. It remains to be seen just how much of his devotion to “Mom” and “Andy” is programmed or genuine, but I get the latter from his care of Bandit. And honestly, making me care about a robot boy in the space of ten pages is no small feat.
No question, a large part of the emotional success of the book is due to artist Dustin Nguyen, whose familiar pencils punctuated with watercolor finishes lend a stunning wash to the entire world of Descender and its occupants. There’s a real lushness to Niyrata from the start, but once Tim is introduced on the moon of Dirishu-6, it becomes evident the potential for emotion on the page is being fully realized.
The soft tones of the moon’s surface juxtaposed to an intensely rich, layered blackness sets an immediate atmosphere of quiet desolation. But the real treat? A full page splash of Tim’s reunion with Bandit, where the blackness seems oppressive, even violent, compared to the soft, complex washes over the boy’s face, clothes and helmet-shaped best friend. The color palette shifts magnificently from primaries to dusty reds and blues as danger unfolds, giving us sky washes that you can just get lost in. All the way to the exquisite detail on the subjects of the last page reveal, Nguyen is going all out on this book, making it a must-drool experience from start to finish.
A remarkably subtle beginning to what is clearly going to be Image Comics’ next great space epic, Descender #1 has everything you need to get hooked — political intrigue, social unrest, planet-level danger, and, most importantly, a boy with his dog. If you’ve been a fan of Lemire and Nguyen’s work, you won’t need any convincing of Descender’s greatness. And if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, there’s no better place to start.
The Verdict: 10/10