Following an attack on the known inhabited planets of the galaxy, by unknown, giant robotic entities, which disappear as mysteriously as they arrived, a culling and outlawing of higher robotic technologies goes into effect. Ten years later a boy-like companion-bot named Tim-21 comes online on a planet thought totally destroyed by the past attack, but when it transpires his inner workings bare similarities to the destroyer race every major political power in the galaxy put priority on acquiring Tim-21 for their own ends. Needless to say the bounty hunters and soldiers put on his case use any means at their disposal to gain the upper hand.
Making a name for himself as a writer/artist on indie comics of repute such as Sweet Tooth and Essex County, Jeff Lemire has subsequently been getting around a bit in mainstream comics, first with a number DC’s New 52 titles and just recently being hired by Marvel to take over the extremely successful Hawkeye title and soon to be writing the flagship X-Men book.
Only recently discovering Lemire’s work on the aforementioned Hawkeye, this reviewer was immediately taken aback by the sheer quality of writing on display; teamed up with a talented artist, certainly, but the story managed to be both joyous, light and hard-hitting all at once and marked the man to be one I’d follow with keen interest in future.
How fortunate then that only months later the first volume of Lemire’s creator owned, sci-fi epic, Descender, went on the stands for my deliberation. Well, not to mince words, off the back of this I’ve moved from taking a keen interest to being an avid fan.
Co-created by Dustin Nguyen, an under-appreciated artist if ever there was one, Descender is arguably executed even better artistically than it is narratively. Over his eclectic artistic career, Nguyen has developed and occasionally uses a beautiful watercolour painted finish that is at once at odds but somehow compliments his detailed yet cartoony style. Taking full advantage of Image Comic’s easy-going approach to scheduling, Nguyen has opted to use this marvellous painted art style for the entire art duties of Descender. Coupled with a great sense of pacing, dynamism, imagination, design and expression, his work on this book, so far, is just about flawless.
Imagination isn’t something that stops with the art though, Lemire has created a vast and textured mythology for this futuristic galaxy while somehow keeping the focus of the story narrow enough to be perceivable as something very simple and easy to follow, yet using smart storytelling tricks that keeps the tale feeling original while quite clearly using ideas we’ve seen many a time.
Don’t take those oft seen story points as narrative laziness on Lemire’s part though, but rather fairytale and sci-fi tropes that act as shorthand ways to sink us faster into the Universe and tale that Lemire and Nguyen are creating, which becomes more and more intriguing and unpredictable as it progresses.
Descender is a feast for the eyes and brain, packing in more story and mythology than you can shake a stick at. Admittedly some plot points and characters aren’t as original as other comics on the stands, but they’re at least as well rounded and certainly add a classical sense of storytelling to the book that is capitalised on tremendously. If there’s any justice this will be as well received as such other Image books as Saga and Sex Criminals. Definitely recommended reading; I can’t wait for the next volume.