Thursday, December 10, 2015

Descender Volume One: Tin Stars

Tin Stars is the first volume of the ongoing Descender series. It compiles the first six issues, telling the tale of a universe where robots have destroyed a sizable portion of the population on nine worlds. The resulting backlash resulted in robots being hunted and destroyed. Ten years after the initial massacre, Tim-21, a small robot designed to be a child's companion reactivates. He finds himself in a strange and lonely place, and he tries to get his bearings.

I don't want to spoil much, because I think that this series is well paced with revelations and surprises, but Tim-21 is wanted by a number of interested parties, because his is a unique robot model. Also, his codex is somehow related to that of the "Harvesters" that wrought the massive destruction. I know that this series is similar to other works, and it seems to wear influences, to the manga series Astro Boy and Pluto, the TV series Battlestar Galactica, and the film Prometheus, on its sleeve, but I still think the story feels fun and fresh. Much of that freshness has to do with the artwork, which you can see is wonderfully atmospheric in its painterly qualities. I also feel that the character work is interesting, and the motley crew that assembles is amusing for its dynamics.

Descender is a collaboration between writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen. The multiple-award winning Lemire is known for his spare and beautiful Essex County Trilogy. He is a prolific comics maker who has worked for the big 2 comics companies, doing superhero work on titles like Animal Man and Extraordinary X-Men, as well as also creating original works like The Underwater Welder, Plutona, and Trillium. Nguyen has been drawing mostly for DC Comics for the past decade, being one of the main artists on various Batman books. Both creators speak about their work on the Descender series in this interview.

The reviews of I have read about this series are positive, though some are somewhat measured. In a starred review, Published Weekly praised Nguyen's "marvelous" artwork while also praising Lemire as he "smoothly doles out information while amping up the tension, and the innocent, friendly character of TIM-21 creates real heart in the midst of extreme violence." Emily King praised the artwork as well, but added that "If you don’t know much about Mass Effect, than Descender will seem pretty fresh in terms of the core pillars of its story and setting" (Disclaimer: Until I just googled it, I knew nothing about Mass Effect). Henry Dykstal called it "an excellent start to an epic."

Descender Volume One was published by Image Comics. They have more information and links to previews here.

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