Descender: The First Pages From Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen’s Lonely New Space Opera
The Image Comics slate for 2015 is something of an embarrassment of riches, with new work coming from some of the most exciting creators in North American comics, including those who’ve been building their fan bases with acclaimed work at Marvel and DC Comics for several years.
Among those who’ll be creating original work for the first time in a long time is Dustin Nguyen, who’s been one of DC’s most reliably great artists of the decade. Known for his fantastic chibi book Li’l Gotham, beautiful backups in Superman Unchained and all sorts of striking work in the Batman line, Nguyen’s inkwash and watercolor technique has sort of typecast him as a go-to cute and/or gothic artist. But those who’ve followed his career closely know that Nguyen is passionate about science fiction. He’s worked on DC’s Justice League Beyond and his own Wildstorm creation Manifest Eternity, but what’s likely to be the cartoonist’s biggest impact in the genre he loves so much is Descender, his new Image monthly with Jeff Lemire.
Described by the publisher as “a rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world,” Descender follows TIM-21, a young robot boy adrift in a galaxy that wants him dead for alleged crimes against humanity. To wit, planet-sized robots called Harvesters obliterated whole worlds without warning and without explanation, before disappearing completely. Naturally, mankind decided to wipe out all robot life, and has sent agents out into space to track down and destroy any survivors.
Known for his work as a cartoonist as well, Lemire’s Trillium and Sweet Tooth are set against similarly dramatic science fiction environments and circumstances, but like those comics, Descender is told mainly from the point of view of its persecuted protagonist (and his pet-like robotic companions). The at once massive and intimate premise is perfect for Nguyen, who’s something of a master at depicting children (or at least childlike) characters, and the space opera setting gives him a chance to apply his moody visuals to places and objects you won’t find in Gotham City. As demonstrated by these early preview pages from Descender #1, the results are as good as you would expect.
Fully painted by Nguyen, these pages express the fear, isolation and innocence of Descender’s hero, and I can’t wait to see what else he and Lemire are going to show us when the book launches in March.