Image did one of their own expos back in the summer of 2014. Most of their books didn’t really capture my attention, except for one little book by the name of Descender. Not because of the premise (though it does remind me a tad of Astro Boy), but because of the creative team involved: Jeff Lemire as the writer and Dustin Nguyen as the artist. I was instantly sold on this alone, and now that the comic has arrived, I can finally read it and see what it is all about. Is it good?
Descender #1 (Image Comics)
In the far distant future and somewhere out in deep space there exists The United Galactic Council, a group of nine Core Planets that are, essentially, one big union. Our focus is on the cultural hub of the planets, Niyrata, where we meet Dr. Jin Quon. He is the lead expert when it comes to modern robotics and he was called in by the UGC heads themselves to investigate these giant robots that appeared near the planets. They’re called Harvests and he has to figure out what they are and who built them. Then, as is custom in your usual sc-fi story, something bad happens. We cut to 10 years later to this distant mining colony where a young boy by the name of Tim has awoken from a 10 year sleep and everyone has died.
On the plus side, none of them seem to have legs, so that should limit their mobility.
I’m happy to report that Descender #1 was a great book and should live up to most of the expectations people had. I would say, that for me at least, this is the first big hit from Image this year that delivered. Starting with the story, it has some very solid setup. It lays down all the groundwork for what you need to know about this universe, the big conflict and what caused it, the current lead characters, and what you can expect from it. It doesn’t go into much detail, but that’s perfectly fine since you don’t need to know any of the finer points to understand and get into the story here. You learn just enough to get interested in this universe and what is going to want to see where the comic will be going.
There are really only two characters so far (there are others in the book, but they don’t seem to have any focus for the moment): Tim and Dr. Quon. Dr. Quon has the most characterization of the two and is the most interesting at this point. This is a character that was essentially on top of the world when it came to his career and where he was in life, just judging from the opening scene. He’s very well respected and a leader in robotics for his time, though humble as well. The moment when we skip 10 years though after the big event, that all changes and he is at the bottom of the ladder. We hear and see hints about what lead him down that road, but we don’t get to know the finer details. As such, it makes you really interested in seeing how this downfall came about and what he can possibly do to redeem himself. Tim, on the flipside, is more of a wide-eyed kind of boy who takes things in stride for the most part. We don’t get to see much with his character outside of him searching for his family, but there is just enough so we can get invested in his goal. Either way, the two leads here are solid and the door is opened nice and wide to allow for plenty of good character growth and dimensions to be added down the road.
That was one hell of a power nap kid.
In regards to the writing, it’s fairly strong here and with little problems to be seen. Every scene has a purpose in some regard (building the world, developing the characters, etc.) and it never feels like a scene goes on too long. I did find some awkward transitions between some of the scenes early on though, where something is about to happen but the comic abruptly moves to a new character or moment. The dialogue is good, with no real awkwardness to it outside of one silly bit where a character is repeating something to another individual that they already know about (I know it’s for the audience’s benefit and all, but still). The ending has a nice hook and with all of the intriguing mysteries that were introduced, there’s certainly enough here to keep you interested and sticking with the book from here on out.
The artwork is the strongest part of the book and is just absolutely gorgeous—easily one of the best looking sci-fi series Image has out even with only one issue available. The characters all look nice and are distinguishable from one another. I really like some of the designs of the more alien creatures and robots that, while having a slight degree of familiarity to them, really look interesting and show a good level of detail. The layouts are solid here and are well put together and are downright impressive with the double page spreads that show the size and scale of a situation. The imagery is eye catching (like where Tim looks at some past news reports on a computer monitor) and the tone and colors work wonderfully together. When things are supposed to feel dreadful and eerie or bright and full of life, they really do. Heck, I even found some of the lettering, an area I rarely pay attention to, to be nice in parts. This artwork is just gorgeous and I fully look forward to seeing more of it in the future, especially when we get to some more action oriented parts.
Is It Good?
Descender #1 is a fantastic start to a new series. It shows a lot of promise for the future with a great setup to what could be an epic, thrilling, and emotional sci-fi tale. It has an intriguing universe already and combined with great writing and awe-inspiring artwork, this is a comic you owe it to yourself to try. Even if it is not your thing, it’s worth at least a look.