A Robot Boy and his Robot Dog: Should You Be Reading ‘Descender’?
With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today, and this week we’re focusing on some of the very best science-fiction in comics. Discover the world of tomorrow with Sci-FI Week!
In the past several years, Image Comics has been turning heads with its growing array of ambitious science fiction comics like Saga, Bitch Planet, and Descender, which has been quietly building its detailed, enveloping world centred around a young robot looking for his family, and those looking for him.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In the future, mankind has explored the stars, encountered many other species, and joined the United Galactic Council. Among the UGC’s greatest achievements is true artificial intelligence, embodied by Dr. Quon’s TIM series of childlike companion robots. That is, until an army of mysterious, massive robots --- the Harvesters --- devastated the UGC’s worlds.
Ten years after the attacks, the galaxy is a different place. Robots have been outlawed, and crews of “scrappers” hunt any they can find. Dr. Quon’s life is in a shambles, and one of his robots, TIM-21, wakes up from a long dream to discover his adoptive family is long gone. When various factions discover TIM-21’s machine code may carry information about the Harvesters, he’s swept up in the violent intrigues of a galaxy he doesn’t recognize. All TIM-21 wants to do is find his family.
WHO’S IT BY?
Descender is written by Jeff Lemire, with art by Dustin Nguyen, and letters and design by Steve Wands.
Lemire is a multiple Shuster award-winning writer and artist, known equally for his original and creator-owned works such as Essex County, Sweet Tooth, Underwater Welder, and Trillium, and works at DC and Marvel. Lemire’s next project is Secret Path, an audio, video, and graphic novel collaboration with Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie to tell the story of indigenous residential school victim Charlie Wenjack.
Nguyen is a writer and artist widely known for his work with the Batman family of DC Comics, including L’il Gotham, which he drew and co-wrote with Derek Fridolfs. Throughout his work, he’s shown an uncanny ability to draw striking and dramatic scenes, as well as lighter and even cute humour, two traits that he brings to the fore with Descender.
Wands is an experienced artist, designer and writer who brings his multifaceted talents to this book as both its letterist and its design. Outside of Descender, you can find his work at DC, Vertigo and Boom Studios.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Descender immediately stands out due to its striking visual style and design. Nguyen has always been adept with the flexibility of his watercolor art, whether it’s a dark atmosphere in his well-known Batman books, or the cartooning and lightness he’s brought to L’il Gotham.
In Descender, he brings these different skills together to emphasize the innocence and curiosity of Timmy, the grime coating the life of Dr. Quon, or the dark horrors of the Harvesters. He and Wands give every species a striking and unique look --- and, through their different word balloons, a different sound.
Lemire is skilled at world creation, whether it’s the lives in a sleepy Canadian county or the horror-infused Animal Man at DC. Descender is perhaps his most ambitious world-building project yet, with he, Nguyen and Wands creating an entire galaxy of worlds and peoples. Each arc has introduced more depth, whether it’s the cyborg cult The Between or the secret asteroid home and mysteries of the Robot Resistance. Descender gives the impression that it’s calculatedly dipping its toes into a wider world, and teasing more to come. Several early issues have information about the galaxy and its denizens in the back matter, and some of these places and peoples have just begun to be explored.
But more than that, for all the breadth and wonder, it’s still a series about a lost boy, his robot dog with emoticons for facial expressions, and their search for their family. All that wonder? It’s through TIM-21’s eyes, and it’s engrossing.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Fans of Lemire and Nguyen’s work will find more of what they like here, but in a new sci-fi setting that they’ll probably enjoy exploring, especially if they liked Lemire’s Trillium. Additionally, if you like Mass Effect, Astro Boy, or Pluto, then Descender is a book to check out.
WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
Descender is available digitally and in print from a variety of retailers. Two trade paperbacks collecting the series have been released, and the third volume will be released on December 14th. The series’ next single issue, #15, is out this week.