Pros: Smart writing and interesting characters drive this sci-fi based book. It also heavily sets up for the next volume and teases some great stories for the future. The art is also great and is possibly one of the best parts of this book.
Cons: This volume is the first in its new series and thus has to make sacrifices in order to make introductions. This causes the story to lag and become a little boring in places.
Overall: While not the greatest story on its own, this volume does a lot to set up for future success. It suffers by being an introduction to what is developing to be a very complex and interesting work. This seems to be a heavy indication that Vol. 2: Machine Moon will really bring the heat. In addition, the art is wonderful in nearly every regard and is nearly enough to make this collection worth it by itself.
I thought Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars was going to go down the very typical route that AI stories always go down: a conflict starts between people who treat robots like humans and those who treat them like machines. I was happily surprised to see that this story mostly avoids this overused plotline and ends up developing something entirely new. It is the start to what is shaping up to be an extremely interesting world with a variety of enjoyable characters. Overall I thought it was an alright read that will hopefully lead into something even better. This collection shares a similar theme to Isaac Asimov’s works, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and even the Mass Effect video games so if you enjoyed any of those then you will enjoy this.
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One of this book’s biggest positives is how extremely interesting and intriguing it becomes. The storyline itself its interesting but the real joy is unearthing the secrets behind what is going on. There is a lot more to the plot than what is happening in the pages and little details from the world and character’s histories add to the mystery. In addition, the series ends with a myriad of questions to answer: “who created the ancient robot?”, “how is Tim special and how did he dream?”, “who are The Hardwire?”, and finally “what is the deal with the Harvesters?”. I am extremely intrigued by these and am very excited to learn more about them in the series next volume.
Interesting and enjoyable characters also play a part in this collection’s successes. Tim and Dr. Quon are both incredible characters who’s pasts heavily contribute to the series’ mystery. Jeff Lemire writes them so well that you end up really feeling for them, especially in the moments when both of them have their respective brushes with death. I must say that I am very excited to learn more about them in future books, specifically I would like to see how their Pinocchio/Geppetto relationship develops. In addition, Driller “the killer” is possible my favorite character in this book. His comically violent take on the world makes him a very fun side character and a pleasure to read.
The biggest problem with this collection is unfortunately one that is hard to get around, it is an introduction. The book goes slow at times when it delves into explanation on story elements yet then forgoes any explanation on other story elements, making it confusing. While unfortunate, this is a sacrifice made to insure that worldbuilding happens as early as possible so that the rest of the story can be enjoyed to the fullest extent.
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The art in this collection is simply fantastic. The art all looks like watercolor paintings rather than the more realistic approach many comics use today. This unique style makes you feel like you are looking at a beautiful painting in an art gallery rather than a comic book. Overall the style is different in a very good way and ends up looking fantastic.
On top of this, the art also pairs perfectly with the storyline. It is an odd combination of bleak and uplifting, exemplified by its heavy use of black and white images. This also gives the book a very modern/futuristic look to it, which lends well to the story. All of this ends up working perfectly together and makes for artwork that I cannot imagine this series without. It honestly is a perfect match for the content of this book.
In addition, I’ll add in that Dustin Nguyen received an Eisner Award for his art in this series.
Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars is published by Image Comics, a creator owned publishing company who’s titles do not often crossover with each other. Thus this title, like many other Image Comics, maintains its own continuity. This means to understand the story all you must do is continue reading in Descender Vol. 2: Machine Moon (Review).