Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Placing innocent children in dark, bleak, situations in a coming-of-age fashion is not something new. It is a story that has been told time and time again. It’s all about the execution of the idea that makes it a fresh one. Here, Jeff Lemire (All-New Hawkeye, Sweet Tooth) and Dustin Nguyen (Batman: Li’l Gotham) have started an interesting tale that combines the comic-of-age tale with a great dose of science fiction.
Prior to this book, when I thought “Jeff Lemire” and “Science Fiction”, the first work to come to mind was his very recent work with Justice League United, a spin-off Justice League book with a more cosmic focus. While I found the book to be enjoyable, it did begin to fall apart for me when it introduced the Legion of Super-Heroes, a property that I feel has long since collapse under the weight of its own impenetrable nature.
The universe that Lemire and Nguyen have started from scratch is an intriguing one. The Untied Galactic Council being a coalition of nine Core Planets and their respective governments. The focus for this issue is on Niyrata, one of the more technologically advanced Core World, rendered wonderfully in Nguyen’s watercolor artwork.
I do have to give a great deal of credit to letterer Steve Wands here. He utilizes a variety of different fonts types, colors and dialogue boxes in order to differentiate different species of aliens as well as robots. It really does help sell the idea of this multispecies universe that is being debuted.
The peace on Niyrata is not long lasted as the plot of the story kicks in with an attack on all nine of the Core Worlds from colossal machines. (We’re talking Galactus-scale here) Our plot then advances ten years into the future as we meet our protagonist.
TIM-21, a robot that originally served as a child companion, awakens on board a mining colony completely alone. Toxic gasses killed all the humans in the colony, their withered husks showing that they have been dead for quite some time. The only companion TIM has is a robotic dog called Bandit.
Once again, Lemire and Nguyen sell this atmosphere by keeping the tone dark and isolated. The thought of an innocent child alone with nothing but corpses is a terrifying thought in and of itself. The scene is sold absolutely brilliantly in this one panel:
But TIM isn’t the only story we follow in this issue. We return to Niyrata and follow Doctor Jin Quon, once a scientist for the UGC before the Harvester attack. Now, a drunk, embittered has-been, he is contacted by his former employers because of a discovery that has been made about the Haravester attacks. While I will not spoil what exactly that discovery is, I will talk about Niyrata in the present.
While the story with TIM played very much into isolation horror, the situation on Niyrata plays into a different type of horror. Lemire and Nguyen show what kind of effect, politically, socially and economically a disaster on such a grand scale would have on a civilization. The juxtaposition of the earlier scenes with the current reality sends a tingle up the spine.
The concept of the “Harvesters” is another one that has been done before. I could not have been one that immediately thought of the Reapers from Mass Effect. But again, Lemire and Nguyen put a new spin on the idea that makes it feel fresh, as the threads that connect the Harvesters, TIM, and Quon are subtly established, ready for the larger story to take fold.
At the end of the day, Descender #1 succeeded in two very big ways: its ability to build an interesting world that is worth exploring and placing us alongside two (three including Bandit) characters that we want to follow. It did what a first issue needs to do: make us want to read more!