Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars


For a book that's being hailed as great space opera, the next big thing, and all that jazz, you'd think that Descender could afford a copyeditor.

"You're father" instead of "your father"?

Nope.



I'm sure all of you who unreservedly loved this are now enraged.

You have every right.  But you know what? As a reader, I am offended when a very well-paid, well-known author can't be bothered to use the possessive form of a pronoun instead of the conjunction.  It shows a lack of thought and care put into the story.  Also, I'm claiming Muphry's Law right now, so there.  Do I make typos in my writing?  Sure!  Do I have someone else looking it over before I hit "publish" up there in the corner?  Nope.  I mean, unless you count spellcheck, but he comes for free and gets half of it wrong anyway.  Spellcheck needs to expand his vocabulary.

Anyway, we could blame Lemire, or the letterer, or the editor, or lack thereof, but the "you're" faux pas is indicative of a larger problem with Descender, and that's that it simply doesn't care about having an imaginative story.

The galaxy starts off all happy and united, but one day, evil robots from space show up and attack!  They kill as many citizens as they can, but leave the robots unharmed.  Then, poof!  They fly away.
This prompts a robot genocide, because obviously the robots in the UGC are responsible for the strange robots no one--not even robot expert Jin Quon--could identify ... no?  That doesn't make sense?  That doesn't make sense!  So humans and the other aliens in the galaxy, who mostly look like Jabba the Hutt, but more ambulatory and with more teeth, decide to destroy the tech that they could have used to rebuild their civilization?  I mean, you could chalk that up to just idiotic human behavior, but dang.  I mean, here's the deal:

If you don't want to bow to the robot overlords, then maybe ... don't make robots?


Anyway, now all the robots in the galaxy are destroyed.  Jin Quon has no job.  And on a moon of a planet far, far away, a little boy wakes up.  His robo-dog, Bandit, communicates via symbols on his front screen, which is a total ripoff of Pizzicato/Mouse from Ben Hatke's far better space comic Zita the Spacegirl.  The little boy, Tim, is actually a robot companion, model Tim-21.  And as he aimlessly wanders about the moon with Bandit, looking for his human family, Quon has been recruited by the Council to accompany a mission to retrieve the lone robot.  Why?

Well, you know, Tim-21's codex just happens to perfectly match that of the Harvesters.  He is the key!  The CHOSEN ONE!


A stereotypically tough-as-nails lady with interestingly geometric hair named Telsa and her partner,--uh, did he have a name?  Let's call him Grunt--whisk Quon off to the moon.  There, a protracted battle is taking place between some robot harvesters and Tim-21.  These ugly dudes found out there was a robot on the planet and they're going to sell him for good money.  Conveniently, Tim has a plasma beam in his hand because he's Iron Man? or something?  Anyway, he shoots a hole through the leader, but the rest of the gang beat him up.  Then, a driller robot named Driller wakes up and scares them away.  Boo!  Driller likes killing hrrmans.

The cavalry arrive to save Tim-21, but at this point he is having a very trippy dream, even though everyone knows robots can't dream.  This sequence was probably the best part of the book, because Lemire does trippy hallucinations rather well.  Unfortunately, Tim's yanked out of it by Quon.  Almost immediately, our heroes are captured by a "squidship" and taken captive to Gnish, the galactic center of the robot genocide.

Meanwhile, Telsa's father, a high-ranking general (hi, nepotism!) meets with other members of the Council to discuss the mission and his plan for the technology inside Tim.  He is going to build Harvesters to protect the UGC from the real Harvesters!  Yay!  What an awesome idea!  But oh no, General!  Your daughter has been taken captive!

Yep, back at Jabba's Palace King S'nok III's palace/torture palace, Quon's having things hacked off in order to torture him into revealing more about robots, while Telsa holds Tim and is sad.  Grunt, Driller, and Bandit have been sent into the arena to fight other robots to the death.  Kind of like this:


Hang on a second.  Where are the Gnishians getting all these robots from?  I thought they were they gung-ho-let's-destroy-'em people?  I guess that is code for "take all robots to Gnish and make them kill each other."  But really, you can't say in the beginning of the comic that Tim-21 is the last robot, and then take him to a planet full of captured robots.

The ending is ridiculous.  There's no other word for it.  I give up.

The redeeming thing about this comic was the art.  Dustin Nguyen's watercolor-and-ink style isn't what you'd expect in a robot sci-fi book, but for some reason, it works.  I think it's his palette (I didn't see a colorist listed, so I assume he colored it as well).  The muted blacks, greys, and browns are very post-technological fall, but he adds these wildly vibrant pops of vermilion that infuse life back into this universe.

There are so many other movies you could watch and books you could read about robots--why waste your time on this one?  Or should I say "you're time"?

3 comments:

  1. Some of those robots seem to have light sabres. :-) I wonder how publishers of comics/graphic novels edit? Do they do it the same way as for novels? Although you never know. I have come across some very poorly written and edited novels published by big name companies.

    (And when the author thanks "my wonderful agent" I think, "Hey, I WANT that agent, who managed to sell an incredibly badly written book to a big publisher! Imagine wat she could do for me!")

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  2. This might have been more interesting if the robots had lightsabers. ;) I don't know how they edit. I guess I can see a typo if it's a new/indie author for a small imprint, but Lemire is pretty big-name.

    Oh, I have seen some incomprehensible books from big publishers. Like, I wasn't even sure that the author had written anything ever.

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