Saturday, 29 August 2015

Descender, Volume 1: Tin Stars Review (Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen)


The distant future. The United Galactic Council is attacked out of nowhere by mysterious Galactus-sized robots called Harvesters killing millions of citizens and leading to a massive robot cull. Fast forward ten years. A child companion robot called Tim-21 awakens on a moon mining colony, surrounded by dead bodies, the only survivor. Various factions are alerted who want Tim-21 whose tiny body potentially contains the secrets behind the Harvesters - run, robot Pinocchio, run!

Descender, Jeff Lemire’s latest foray into sci-fi, is as derivative and boring as his last, Trillium. It seems Lemire is incapable of creating anything original. He’s borrowed heavily from Steven Spielberg’s AI, put it against the Star Wars prequels backdrop and mixed in some Prometheus. The strong female character in the book, Captain Telsa, is a complete ripoff of Batwoman/Kate Kane, who’s a tough army lady whose dad is a higher-up in the military - she even rocks the same hairstyle/hair colour as Kate! 

The story is very uninteresting. Quon, the guy who created Tim-21 and robots like him, joins Telsa in looking for the kid robot while fighting Scrappers, mercenary aliens who hunt robots. It’s unclear why Tim-21 has a lethal Iron Man-esque power beam embedded in the palm of his hand when he’s designed to be a child companion robot. Wouldn’t that be like mixing arsenic into Play-Doh or including a butcher knife with a Lego set? 

A supporting robot character called Driller is introduced who’s, yes, a drill-bot for the moon mining colony. Except why make him sentient? He’s capable of deciding to kill all humans and think for himself. Why? Wouldn’t that be like giving intelligence to a hammer? It’s a tool, you don’t need it to think! 

The characters are written as total flatlines and are as unoriginal as the rest of the book. Tim-21 is an annoying kid while the rest of the cast are similarly archetypical. The cowardly brainiac, the strong female asskicker, Some Guy with Gun, Driller the tough guy, and Ugly Alien Villains galore! Am I supposed to be rooting for Tim-21? Because, almost immediately, I was hoping they’d dissect him like a frog! 

Dustin Nguyen’s art isn’t bad but the Star Wars prequel look and the Kate Kane rip-off was difficult for me to get past and enjoy. That and Lemire’s relentlessly bad script made reading Descender (not sure what that title means either - unless it’s a wink at being a descendant of the various sci-fi works Lemire’s imitating) a tiresome experience. 

Descender, Volume 1: Tin Stars is an uninspired and poorly thought-out patchwork comic of popular sci-fi movies. Nguyen’s art is pretty but Lemire’s writing once again shows his limitations when it comes to this genre, not least for his breathtaking lack of imagination! The first volume doesn’t make me want to return to the series for the next part - not at all recommended reading!

Descender, Volume 1: Tin Stars

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