Recommended Reading: Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars

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Your personal opinion may differ (that’s how these things tend to go), but for my money, Jeff Lemire is the most important comic book writer of the past 10 years. There are certainly few writers as prolific as Lemire. I honestly don’t know how the man does it. Not only does he consistently put out great books, but it seems as though he has written for nearly everyone. Since 2009s Essex County, Lemire has written for Top Shelf, Vertigo, DC, Marvel, Image, Valiant, and later this year, he will be publishing a new graphic novel with Simon & Schuster. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he draws most of his books too.

I could easily do a whole year’s worth of posts on Jeff Lemire, and I guarantee his name will pop up a few more times before the year is out, but for the uninitiated, Descender is a great place to start. First off, the book is ongoing (#15 comes out next month), so you can get in on the ground floor, so to speak. And second, it has its feet planted on the borders of what Lemire does best. It’s a showcase of both Lemire’s singular creativity (it’s a creator-owned title put out by Image) and his ability to collaborate (the book was created with, and is illustrated beautifully by Dustin Nguyen).

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Let’s start with that collaboration. Having read many of the books which Jeff Lemire both writes and draws, I regard his voice and visual style as two sides of the same coin. His thick, almost sloppy lines give a visual texture to his worlds which is inextricable from the storytelling that holds them up. It can be jarring to read a Lemire book without his signature visuals. But Nguyen has an entirely different range and skillset. Within the first few pages of the book, he has to depict a shimmering city of the future, a world-sized world-destroying robot, a deserted mining colony, and the end of the world (sort of). The book moves at a rapid-fire pace, but Nguyen grounds it through his sensitive and meticulous depiction of the world. I did not intend my second Recommended Reading column to share this distinction with the first, but Descender, like Harrow County, is water-colored. It works to beautiful effect here. The range of light and dark, the softness of some faces, the hardened crags of others – the choice of watercolor brings a humanity to the far-off universe of Descender. It calls to mind the enigmatic covers of 50s and 60s sci-fi paperbacks. More importantly, it brings an essential humanity to its protagonist.

The book centers around Tim-21, the boy who is not a boy. In fact, he is a robot, and we learn, after the prologue, that he is one of the last of his kind. He has been asleep for ten years. In that time, giant robots appeared out of nowhere, reaped destruction, and then disappeared, sending the United Galactic Council into complete disarray. Tim-21 may be the key to defending the galaxy and that’s where Dr. Quon comes in. You see, he created the Tim series of child companions – a huge leap forward in robotics – and it turns out there may be some connection between the mysterious Harvesters (those world-sized, world-destroying robots) and the Tims.

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I won’t go too much further on plot –one of the pleasures of the book is the amount of twists and turns the narrative takes – but the book is filled with wonderful, classically Lemire-ian characters. A dog-robot. A Hulk-like killer mining robot. An bulbous, wannabe surgeon, space-king. And whole bands of miscreants and ruffians. The book ponders what it means to be alive, to be human, and what we owe the things we create. Lemire and Nguyen also turn an eye toward the past, how we learn from it, or don’t, and explore the self-destructive limits of ambition and fear.

You could start with any of Jeff Lemire’s books, but let me humbly suggest that you dip your toe into Descender. Volume 1 and 2 are available in trade paperback now with Volume 3 arriving at the end of this year.

 

-Ian

Tales From the Pull List (Aug. 12th): We are living in a (Im)material world

Pick of the Week:

Phonogram: The Immaterial girl #1: So full disclosure: I own the first two volumes of Phonogam, and I have read them both numerous times. When I found out that they were making another volume of it I freaked out. I marked the day on my calender, and stared longingly at it. With this hype I had built, a worrisome thought crept into my mind: what if it didn’t live up to the hype I had created in my own head? What if the beauty of what it had been overshadowed what it will be. I am happy to report that it lived up to the hype I had created for it, and then some. The issue is a nostalgia filled roller coaster of emotion. Gillen’s script is so good that at times it hurts. The art by McKelvie and Wilson holds up to its standard of excellence and more.  Wilson has cemented (in my mind at least) his status of the best color artist in the game. Seriously, is there a better creative team than Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson? I dare you try, I know you’ll fail. Go buy this issue.If you haven’t read the previous volumes of Phonogram you will still enjoy it. If you have you’ll enjoy it even more. Rating: 10/10

Buy

Injection #4: More of the back story is explored in this issue, but the answers are coupled with more questions. Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire craft an excellent issue with lots of character development. With more of the background being revealed you finally get a sense of what’s going on, and that in and of it’s self is exciting. Not as much action this issue as the bulk of it was dedicated to back story. An almost antithesis of issue three really. I’m excited to continue this series and see which bends first: Science, or magic. Rating: 7/10

Gotham Academy #9: Another strong showing for my favorite series from DC. Could there be a wolf at Gotham Academy? Or something more sinister? This issue builds on the mystery that surrounds Olive’s mother while providing plenty of action in the for of a man bat and a wolf man(?). We discover that certain people are excellent at science, and that they may or may not have a secret layer. The creative team of Cloonan, Fletcher, Kerschl, Lapointe, and Msassyk continue to deliver month after month. At this point if you aren’t reading Gotham Academy you might want to re-evaluate your life. Rating: 8/10

A-Force #3: She-hulk finds herself in the midst of trouble after jumping threw the portal from the end of issue two. Will she be able to make it back to her team? Whats the meaning of the portals? What’s causing them? All these questions are, more or less, answered in this issue. I’ll keep this mini review spoiler free though. A-Force continues to be a fresh air in what is starting to feel like an aimost-stale mega event. The only titles I read from Secret Wars is Secret Wars and this title. I am glad it’s continuing after Battleworld is no more. Rating: 7/10

Secret Wars #5: Speaking of Secret Wars, the main title continues to surprise me. I know I’ve said it before but Jonathan Hickman is a genius, or a mad scientist. One of the two. In this issues we see the repercussions of the shocking end to Issue 4 (no spoilers, just know that it was indeed shocking). We learn more of how God Doom was able to save what fragments of the muti-verse that he did save (with the helm\p of a very special someone). Truly the exploration of how battleworld came to be is fascinating to me. It’s clear that this event was months, no, years in the making. The art by Ribic continues to astound. All in all a great addition to a great series. Rating: 8/10

Skip

Starfire #3: Honestly the only reason I got this issue is because I pre-ordered it months ago. I can see why other people like it, it’s just not for me. Rating: 3/10

Descender #6: This issue really fell flat for me. Which is a pity because I’ve really enjoyed the overall series. I hope that Jeff Lemire can turn it around for the next issue. Rating: 5/10

Tales from the pull list June 10th: It’s a Weirdworld

Hello Revuers! This week I am trying out something new. I am going to list all of the comics I bought or read and place them into three categories: Pick(s) of the week, Buy, or Pass. Let me know what you think of this new article and if you like, it or if I should go back to pick of the week, in the comment section below. Your feedback is appreciated. With out further delay here we go:

Pick of the week:

Weirdworld #1

Weirdworld #1 is a tale of a king stranded on a, well weird, world looking for a way back home. The antagonist Akron is the ruler of the kingdom Polemachus, who due to the events of Secret Wars has been stranded on a floating island. Which he then names Weirdworld, due to all the strange and impossible dangers he has had to face, These include: Squidsharks, dragons,  fire rain, hawk-squatch hybrid, etc. etc. This issue really serves as an introduction to Weirdworld and our protagonist, although plenty of action is offered in the second half of the issue. I wont spoil it, go read it. What drew (all puns intended) to this issue was the art. The series features the artistic talents of the art team behind the latest volume of Elektra: Mike Del Mundo, and Marco D’Alfonso. This fantastic duo draw and color a world beyond our imagination. Where hard neon colors stab through soft pastels, where blood flows green and grass grows red. All in all this artistic team delivers on what were high expectations (by me at least).

Rating: 8.5/10

Buy:

Gotham Academy #7: The gang is back! Well some of them. A new character emerges, and joins Maps in a quest to discover the secret of the (magic?) quill.

Rating: 7/10

Decscender #4: Excellent character development this issue, with still fantastic art. I am excited to see if robots really do dream.

rating: 6/10

Injection #2: This series has started off to a slow start for me. I was very excited to pick it up, since it features the creative team behind the first arc of Moon Knight. So far it has left me a little disappointed. However it did just enough to keep me interested in purchasing issue 3.

Rating 4/10

Silk #5 Another solid issue and return of artist Stacey Lee. There was a heartwarming moment in the middle of the issue that I wont give away, but lets just say it was from a character you wouldn’t expect.

Rating: 6.5/10

Spider-Gwen #5: Interesting work with the black cat. Also having Matt as a villain is an interesting twist. The art was fantastic, and it really got a lift from the outstanding coloring job by Rico Renzi. Seriously, is there a colorist better right now?

Rating: 7.5/10

Silver Surfer #12: This issue felt a little stale, with similar themes and plot ideas as the last issue, however, Michael and Laura Allreds art saves it for me.

Rating: 5.5/10

Pass:

Starfire #1: Really didn’t do it for me. Also, all the “wow, starfire is hot” moments felt weird to me. Some of the thought bubble pictures were funny though.

Rating: 4/10

Ultimate end #2: Maybe I just didn’t get into the Ultimate universe enough to care, but I just can’t get into this series.

Rating: 4/10

Constantine the Hellblazer #1: Bogged down by dialogue in my opinion. Some interesting and striking art choices though.

Rating: 4/10

All in all this week was pretty good. As I stated before let me know what you think of the new format in the comments section.

-Andrew Horton