BIN SIFTIN’ with Rene LeClair: DESCENDER #1

DESCENDER #1 – IMAGE COMICS 

Writer/ Jeff Lemire   Artist/ Dustin Nguyen

As much as I’m a fan of horror movies, I think I prefer science fiction over all other genres. There is almost never a time when I don’t get a kick out of space ships, aliens, robots, lasers and that final frontier: space.

Seems to me a person would have to be some sort of forward thinking dreamer to come up with all this stuff. Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles is, to this day, one of my favourite reads. Each chapter is a different short story taking place Descender #1a (1)over the course of months and years, starting with the evacuation of planet Earth in the face of total global nuclear annihilation and then the attempt to settle on mars.

Star Wars certainly still manages to capture my imagination. I was hanging out with my cousin when we were kids, and he was obsessed with Star Wars. He introduced me to the movies, and it didn’t take me long to catch the bug. Watching A New Hope for the first time and seeing the Millennium Falcon blasting off into hyperspace, the stars stretching and twisting to lightspeed. It was all very dizzying and intoxicating to me. My first SW toy was the Snow Speeder. Do you remember the time Luke Skywalker flew a Snow Speeder around and around an AT-AT’s legs, tripping it up with a grappling hook cable? Yeah, of course you do. Why? Because that was some awesome, impossible science fiction right up in your face, that’s why. A person just can’t forget that kind of thing.

I still can’t get enough of Star Wars as an adult. There are these tabletop games we play called Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures and Star Wars Armada and they are some of the best tabletop miniatures games I have ever seen. The upside, of course, is that by default you WILL amass a vast amount of highly detailed small, medium and large SW spaces ships models.  Assembled in a point based squad or fleet, you side with the Empire or the “Rebel scum” and defeat your opponent in a space battle of epic proportions. Alright, it’s typically played on a 3′ x 3′ or 3′ x 6 surface, but you pick your ships, pilots and upgrades and hours of fun are had. Look up these games.

Sci-fi can certainly be considered, but not limited to, high adventure and with each new film, the advancements in movie making technology seems to have finally caught up with what comics have been able to show us for years. Comic Descender-panel-1creators have always been ready and willing to thrill and often frighten us with stories of far off places populated by strange creatures. EC comics with Weird Science and Weird Science Fantasy certainly provided chills with the visual styles of Al Williamson and Wally Wood. Bernie Wrightson and many others knew how to draw us in and keep fans coming back for more.

Today, it’s easy to quickly peruse the shelf of your local shop and pick out some damn good science fiction, if the mood strikes you. It seems like there are more and more of these on the self every week. Invisible Republic, ODY-C, We Stand On Guard, Alex + Ada and Fear Agent (which is the series after which I have named my band) to name a few smaller books by smaller companies. Marvel and DC Comics have also never been afraid to delve into the genre. Check out Annihilation and Cosmic Odyssey if you get a chance. Or if you want to go with the classics, EC has been reprinting their classics in pretty hard covers that would look good on any shelf.

Today we are going to quickly look at Descender #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen.  Lemire has been around the block when it comes to comics. He’s done work for what seems to be all the big and small comic publishers. Sweet Tooth for DC’s Vertigo imprint was fantastic. Animal Man, one of DC Comic’s New 52 launch titles, was one the the few books that drew me back to DC back in 2011. His Essex County trilogy over at Top Shelf earned him Harvey and Eisner nominations. All-New Hawkeye for Marvel Comics now. All are well worth a read.

I know Dustin Nguyen from his great work with Ed Brubaker on The Authority: Revolution. His art was superb on that. Changing up art styles this STK666077-page-001time around, the choice of going with a water colour approach lends itself so well to the look of this book. The pages are stunning; whether it’s  a sterile moon base or a random dingy broken down district of a megalopolis.

The Planet Niyrata found itself to be the hub of nine core planets called the United Galactic Council. Being the cultural and technological center of the galaxy, it housed 5.53 billion inhabitants. All of them were tremendously caught off-guard when province-sized robots dubbed “Harvesters” came out of nowhere undetected, one for each for each planet in the UGC. They proceed to unleash waves of ship-robots that decimate the population of the UGC planets, causing the most damage to the planetary infrastructures while “mechanical companions and helpers were mostly spared”.  Unrest following the attack, linked to centuries old tensions, spread throughout the galaxy as anti-robot violence became widespread. So “started a robot genocide as the spokesperson of the A.I. Embassy called it.”

Ten years later on the Moon of Dirishu-6, a mining colony, Tim-21 wakes up. He looks like a little kid, but is really an android companion created by Doctor Jin Quon, a science community contact of the former UGC.

The good doctor has spent the last ten years in despair on Niyrata trying to crack the robo-genome that would allow them to fight back again the robot STK666077-page-003oppressors, but with no luck. That is until a direct link between the Harvesters
and the Tim-21 model was found. From there, the chase to find the only operational Tim model robot left in existence is on as special interest groups within what is left of the UGC and pirate/bounty hunter outlaws vie for it’s acquisition.

The first issue was great. Planet destroying robots, spaceship-robots, companion robots, alien (but non-robot) races, all in beautifully drawn panels. The futuristic aesthetic Nguyen expertly presents makes for a very pretty book, yet some scenes, like when Tim’s face and whole right side suddenly break apart and out spring a swiss army knife’s worth of gadgets, it’s a little horrifying. Tim’s robot “dog” is pretty neat too and gives Tim a little bit more kid like humanity. He’s so screwed.

Who will get their hands on Tim first?

You can now read the whole first story arc in the collected volume of Descender Vol. 1. – RENE

(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well.  He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT.  Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels.  At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them here.)