Last week, Image Comics put out the first issue of Descender, the new sci-fi book from the incredible creative team of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. The much-anticipated book had high expectations to live up to, but I’m happy to say that this issue blew past every one of them.
Descender takes place in the United Galactic Council, a group of nine Core Planets allied together. Only a few pages into exploring Niyrata, the capital planet and home of the embassies of each planet, the entire system is irrevocably changed. Nine giant robots attack the planets, devastating the universe and leaving billions dead. After the attack, the robots disappear, leaving terrified survivors to initiate a system-wide attack on all robotic life. Where the attackers originated is the mystery at the core of this story, but the answer may lie with the Tim-21, the only known surviving android child.
I admire what Lemire does in the first few pages of the book. He sets up an entire galactic system and, while it makes for a slower opening than I would have liked, he manages it in only a few pages. What I admire even more is the willingness to completely destroy his creation in the next few pages. Lemire effortlessly weaves world-building through the issue, setting up two entirely different universes in one issue. That’s a monumental task and the exposition that slows the pacing a little can easily be forgiven.
The protagonist, Tim-21, is instantly likeable. He’s childlike – conveying a sense of innocence and curiosity while maintaining the maturity you’d expect from an android. The book dedicates a significant number of pages to letting Tim-21 explore his surroundings, taking time to flesh out his character through environmental interactions. The rest of the book’s cast are a little less interesting as they are mostly overshadowed by the events surrounding them. It makes for a nice contrast and highlights the importance of Tim-21 over the others.
The art in this book is gorgeous. Nguyen makes masterful use of space, keeping backgrounds minimal but vibrant, often using whites to contrast the bright colors of the characters. The line work is sharp and draws the reader’s attention to the important points of the panel. But it’s the coloring that really makes the book shine. Nguyen uses beautiful watercolor over the lines to make each panel captivating and the splash pages entrancing. I spent a lot of my reading time just admiring the art. You will too.
Image Comics seems to have yet another great series on the shelves with Descender. It marks one of the strongest debuts the publisher has seen in the last year, no small feat considering the books they’ve put on the shelves. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have made magic happen and this is only the beginning. Add this one to your pull list immediately.