Comic Review: DESCENDER #1

descender 1 cover
DESCENDER #1/ Script by JEFF LEMIRE/ Art by DUSTIN NGUYEN/ Letters & Design by STEVE WANDS/ Published by IMAGE COMICS

Ten years ago, the planet Niyrata was the cultural and technological hub of the United Galactic Council. Spanning nine planets and nine species, the UGC was a bastion of fellowship – a political and technological utopia! Then, The Harvesters came.  Violent robots of unknown origin and construction far in advance of even the technologies commanded by the UGC, The Harvesters lay waste to the nine worlds.  The people survived but neither they nor their home-worlds remained unscathed.

Now, some of the nine worlds are ruled over by Luddite zealots who seek to destroy all technology. Even the worlds not sinking into barbarism have gone so far as to ban all artificial intelligences. Bounty hunters roam the solar system, tracking down those few mechanical life forms that avoided the original robot holocaust.

Tim-21 is unaware of this. An android designed to act as a companion and playmate to children, Tim-21 has lain dormant for the last decade on a distant moon base. He knows nothing of what has transpired in the last ten years.

All Tim-21 knows is that his “mother” and playmate Andy are gone. And with only a robot dog named Bandit to accompany him, Tim-21 is about to venture out into a hostile solar system to find his family.


Comparisons to older works of science-fiction seem inevitable when considering this first issue of Descender. A robotic boy’s quest to find his family? Sounds a bit like A.I. Bounty hunters chasing down illegal androids? Blade Runner. One can even draw parallels between Tim-21 and Osama Tezuka’s Astro Boy. But as a great chef can take familiar ingredients and craft some unique dish, so too does Jeff Lemire take these well-worn tropes and find a way to turn them into something new and wonderful.

Much of Descender #1 is devoted toward establishing the setting. Already, the universe seems far richer than the standard empire-in-decline dystopia that has become so prevalent in recent science-fiction. The details revealed in the story are sparse yet expose enough to leave the reader wanting more.  They’ll find it in a quick guide to the nine worlds of the United Galactic Council that Lemire includes at the end of the issue.

Lemire’s script is perfectly paired with the artwork of Dustin Nguyen. Perhaps best known for his recent work on the Batman Lil’ Gotham series, Nguyen’s style defies easy quantification. His inks are light but his figures contain too much fine detail to be described as sketchy.  His alien designs are reminiscent of countless Green Lantern comics yet the general aesthetic might be more readily compared to 2000 AD.  However one chooses to describe it, Nguyen’s artwork is damn good.

In fact, the whole of Descender #1 is damn good. Sci-fi enthusiasts will find it entertaining, as will fans of Lemire and Nguyen’s previous work. But by all rights this comic should be picked up by anyone and everyone who enjoys good comics.

Rating 5

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