Descender: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen – A Book Review

Because this title has enjoyed great buzz, I thought I’d give it a try.  Descender is a an interesting science fiction book that explores the meaning of family, humanity, consciousness, and morality.  Of course, these universal topics are unfolding in a universe filled with robots, aliens, and gargantuan mechanical world destroyers.

Tim-21 is an android developed to look like a child and act as a friend to a human companion.  He finds himself alone after a long slumber, cut off from his family, but quickly finds his robot dog and befriends a labor robot called Driller.  Tim-21 may hold the key to understanding the enormous machines that threaten all worlds across the galaxy, which has made him the target of good and bad alike.

The themes of the book are pretty standard to Lemire, though I personally found his dialogue even better than usual.  The story itself is interesting but not necessarily unheard of.  No, what sets this book apart is Dustin Nguyen.

Nguyen’s art in Descender is absolutely beautiful.  The colors, the figures, the layouts – exquisite.  Nguyen’s talent and careful work makes Descender a must-read.

Descender is a book that has broad appeal.  Science fiction fans will appreciate the aliens and robots.  Those interested in the human condition will find the themes and the exploration of what it means to “live” interesting.  Those craving action will be thrilled.  But at the end of the day, if you love comic books, or just art in general, Dustin Nguyen will delight you with every page.

Teen Titans: Earth One by Lemire and Dodson – A Book Review

Jeff Lemire is always hit or miss with me, but when I saw that Teen Titans: Earth One received positive criticism and when I found it at my local library, I had to give it a shot.

I’m glad I did.

The Earth One concept is an interesting one at DC Comics.  They’ve had success with both Superman and Batman under the Earth One banner, and the idea is basically that these heroes are debuting in modern times in the world we live.  The biggest advantage is that they are completely free of any previous baggage.  Anything goes with the Earth One titles, but honestly, Superman and Batman remained largely unchanged and didn’t take enough risks.

Teen Titans, on the other hand, made a very large break from their original incarnations, and, in my opinion, it’s a positive one.

Lemire has a very good handle on Starfire, Changeling, Cyborg, Raven, Jericho, and Terra.  The plot is that Starfire has been held captive since her arrival as a baby on Earth.  Scientists used her DNA to run experiments, and those experiments resulted in a certain group of teenagers developing amazing abilities that are largely beyond control.  Raven looks on from afar at her Navajo reservation, connected to the group for reasons we don’t fully understand, but always prepared to intervene when necessary.

This book is definitely a case of familiar names in very different situations.  In my open, Lemire has done a fantastic job of keeping these characters’ essence the same while remaining unpredictable.  In an industry that sometimes becomes stifled by its own intricate serialization, Teen Titans finds a way to be fresh and exciting.

Terry Dodson, as always, creates fluid, beautiful images that rocket the story forward.  His perspectives and layouts are always masterful.  It’s a fun book to read, but it’s even more fun to view.

Near the end of the book we are introduced to a favorite Teen Titan and the groundwork is laid for even more to appear in the future.  Teen Titans: Earth One is a satisfying origin story, and it certainly leaves the door wide open for a sequel.

Traditional Teen Titan fans will find this unusual angle interesting, and the casual fan will have no trouble getting to know these characters and joining in the adventure.  I look forward to seeing where Lemire and Dodson go next.

Trillium by Jeff Lemire – A Book Review

All the accolades celebrating this book are accurate – it is a very special work.

To briefly summarize, Trillium is a story that takes place in both 1921 and 3797.  William Pike is a soldier trying to find himself again after the Great War, and Nika Tensmith is a scientist trying to use the plant called Trillium to develop a vaccine against a sentient virus that has eradicated humanity throughout the universe.  Both are examining a temple, though time and space separates them.  Through a cosmic convergence, they are united, torn apart, replaced, and united yet again all while trying to stave off the deadly approaching virus.

I’ve heard some call Trillium a love story, and that is as good a label as any, I suppose.  But Trillium is so much more than that.  Trillium certainly celebrates the “love at first sight” aspect of these characters, but it also renews our faith in the tenacious human spirit, our capability to stand together and overcome insurmountable obstacles, and our willingness to sacrifice for the good of others.  It speaks to the beauty of bonding with one another, the despair of abandonment, and the desire to become something “more.”

This book truly moved me in all of the ways I’ve mentioned, but it also impressed me through a purely technical aspect.  Trillium is, plainly stated, a perfectly constructed, paced, and executed book.  The panels’ layouts are brilliant and the structure is astounding.  Lemire plays with order and sequence in a fresh, innovative way that both challenges and delights the reader.

Furthermore, Lemire defies genre at every opportunity.  It features trench warfare.  It has futuristic vehicles.  It offers Peruvian natives.  It uses an alien species.  It even tosses in a little steampunk at one point.  The book consists of many elements, many different kinds of story, yet it all blends together to deliver a unique, provocative, engrossing tale.

Trillium really is unlike any other.  Students of the medium will gain much from studying this work, and lovers of story will be utterly satisfied.

Green Arrow Volume 5: The Outsiders War by Lemire and Sorrentino

I got into Green Arrow when Kevin Smith brought him back from the dead.  Don’t get me wrong, any kid growing up in the early 80’s loved Green Arrow, but mostly as a member of the Justice League of America.  No, I started seriously following the character when Smith returned Oliver Queen to the land of the living and then began expanding his cast of characters.  Then Meltzer came along with “The Archer’s Quest” and took an already complex character to a whole new level of sophistication.

When The New 52 began, I heard that Green Arrow really suffered in terms of story quality.  I steered clear.  Even as the show on the CW captured my interest, I still kept my distance from the comic book because of its negative reviews.

However, when Jeff Lemire came aboard the title, I knew it was time for me to join as well.  “The Outsiders War” is a fantastic read.

First of all, the mythology Lemire built concerning clans centered upon The Spear, The Sword, The Fist, The Axe, The Mask, The Shield, and The Arrow is something both fresh and unique.  Lemire delivers a fascinating story involving Green Arrow’s past on the island, his father, his half-sister, as well as both Shado and Katana.  The repercussions of this story could have lasting effects upon the character for years to come.

However, Andrea Sorrentino is an even greater force behind this title.  I’ve honestly never quite seen art such as this, and I’ve read comic books for well over thirty years.  The layouts, the pictures within pictures, the sheer fluidity from panel to panel – it is the work of an extremely talented person.  But, even with that being said, the art is even further enhanced by Marcelo Maiolo, surely one of the most interesting colorists in the industry.  If I sat here and described the colors to you, you’d think me insane because nothing is the conventional color you’d expect .  But they work. They work beautifully.

If you’re a fan of the character, I definitely recommend “The Outsider’s War” as well as it’s predecessor, “The Kill Machine.”