May 11, 2016

[Comics] Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars

The annual Eisner Awards are a great venue for discovering new comic books that have managed to get the attention of fans and critics alike. And since I'm not exactly great with independent exploration of titles, especially outside the worlds of Marvel and DC, I do enjoy exploring various Eisner nominees to see how things will go.

Descender was such a surprising book for me but one that I do not regret engaging with. It was among the nominees for Best Painter/Multimedia Artist because of Dustin Nguyen's contributions, so that drew me in. Plus it's a story about a robot made to appear like a boy, and that rather enamored me as well.

But man, I wasn't prepared for an equally beautiful story as well and this book certainly delivered a unique and most worthy experience. Yes the art is beautiful but the story is also exquisite in its own way and I feel all the better for reading it. We can only be thankful that comic book writers are able to use the medium to tell such fascinating stories through this mostly visual language.

Synopsis: Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars is the first compilation of the Descender comics written by Jeff Lemire with art by Dustin Nguyen. This on-going series was released as a compilation in September 2015.

In some distant future where humanity lives out in the stars. The United Galactic Council core worlds are visited by a series of vessels of unknown origin and a massive humanoid robot. The large constructs then attack the core worlds, starting a conflict with an unknown robotic enemy. Fast forward a bit and the United Galactic Council barely survived the coming of the robotic Harvesters but it seems a possible link between an older Earth-created robot and the aliens seems to exist. And it just so happens that Tim-21, one of the robots from this series, has managed to survive the purge of such artificial lifeforms among across the colonies. So now UGC representatives are on their way to recover what they believe to be the last Tim robot while Tim-21 tries to figure out what happened to his family on a remote mining colony.

The story is mostly told from the perspective of Tim-21 but also following the UGC representatives sent out to find him. There are obvious parallels with stories like Saga, but it's not like this story telling form is exclusive to that one story. There's always good support for a space opera and this tale is certainly told in a manner that is both grand and intimate at the same time.

And I rather like the premise of this whole little adventure. We have a universe that is naturally intolerant of robots after all that had been done by the Harvesters across all those worlds. It's a hostile environment and one that is ripe with potential stories and that works out quite well indeed. Then you have the diverse back stories of the UGC team and how that is to interrelate with the rest of the plot.

I'm loving Dustin Nguyen's art in this book and it's funny that I forgotten that I had already encountered Nguyen's work before in another title, this being Lil Gotham. But instead of the childish chibi art style used in that title, here Dustin's work is just exquisitely elegant and refined. The fine details of the characters faces balanced with the softer tones of his backgrounds and coloring makes for some beautiful panels indeed.

So we have a compelling story combined some some beautiful art in order to create a most beautiful piece of narrative art indeed.

Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars is a story of adventure and intrigue but is also a heartwarming tale of a robot who is eerily like a boy. There's the question of the future of the races bit also the mystery behind the Harvesters and both plot items help drive the story forward across each issue. Thus the book gets a great 5 moments of whimsy and wonder in the book out of a possible 5.

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