Sunday, 24 November 2019

In Review - 'Sentient' from TKO Studios.

I've finally had a bit of time to myself this weekend and have been catching up on some of the read pile. 


'Sentient'

Written by Jeff Lemire.
Art and Cover by Gabriel H. Walta.
Letters by Steve Wands.

163 pages - Full Colour - £17.99 (£12.99 digital)
Published by TKO Studios.

The Story - The U.S.S. Montgomery is a colony ship travelling from Earth to a planet many light years away. Families make use of an Artificial Intelligence onboard who they call 'Valerie'.  When the ship reaches the 'Osler Radiation Belt' all communications with where they have been or where they are going are cut off. At this exact moment a separatist mother who is also part of this voyage makes use of this black-spot and murders the adults. Just as she is about to kill the children a dying law enforcement officer manages to turn off Valerie's mission protocols and the AI uses a mechanical arm to brutally kill the separatist.

From this point on it is down to the children with the help of Valerie to survive. They must learn the needed skills and become organised enough to survive the problems and traps that have been set for them on their journey.



Myself and my pod brothers Vince Hunt and Dan Butcher have been impatiently waiting for the next wave of books to come out from TKO. We went nuts for 'Sara' and 'The 7 Deadly Sins' especially and had the pleasure of interviewing Tze Chun a few months back. He spoke about these new series with great enthusiasm and this one does not disappoint.

This is the sort of science fiction that harks back to the pre Star Wars days and/or the darker little corners of late night movies. The AI has the echo in her voice like Hal did in '2001 A Space Odyssey' but also has a maternal empathy. But you are never not nervous of what hidden intentions there may be in her directions. The children are innocent enough to be moulded and, to a certain degree, brainwashed by the words and plans of Valerie. I can't/won't spoil the ending but you do suspect that something more will come of this codependent relationship with those hints that are left in the last few pages.



But simply because this is a story in the most part about children you should not be fooled into expecting it to be PG rated. There is a lot of bloodshed and horror that jumps out from the dark corridors of deep space in this graphic novel. Jeff Lemire writes with truth and a clearness of thought. He paces the story just right and everyone does things that are both totally within expectations and yet when they surprise you with something you are never confused. He saves some great twists and turns for moments you will not suspect and ends on a point that really got me thinking. 

Garbriel H. Walta matches the naturalism in Lemire's dialogue writing perfectly with the facial acting of his art. I really enjoyed his work on The Vision mini series from Marvel a couple of years ago and this is more of the same in quality and detail. His spaceships are never sleek and balletic they are instead big hulking trucks in space. Full of dankly lit rooms and shadowy edges. 

I bought the trade paperback version of this story. TKO produce their comics in a number of different formats. The hard copy versions are slightly bigger than normal American comic size and this gives added space to the art. I must admit to feeling that Walta didn't make enough of this added space and these pages could easily be downsized to the usual American shelf size without much changing in the reading experience. Saying that they are all gloriously rendered and that added size does otherwise remind me of reading a Treasury Edition from those days gone by.

The children are full of personality and play perfectly against the ordered and solemnly delivered lines of the AI. Steve Wand's lettering deserves a shout out here and is always both full of style yet never interrupts the flow of the narrative. 

It's the personalities and characters that the story depicts are what really warm me to this thriller tinged sci-fi tale. Everyone both looks and emotes differently. There's a moment when the ship is boarded and what you see are that the newcomers mirror visually the look of these kids with added undertones of foreshadowing regarding the future lives of these infant survivors. pencil and Inks wise there are moments in Walta's art that remind me of some John Romita Jnr overlaid with some brilliant choices in muted colours. 


This stands as a great one-off graphic novel but I wouldn't be adverse to seeing where the story heads to after the last page. Even if the creators and TKO Studios decide not to continue with this story it would be great to see Walta and Lemire work more together at this really interesting new comics company. I highly recommend this volume and that you follow anything put out by Tze Chun and his buddies.

If you head over to https://tkopresents.com/products/sentient you can read the first issue in this this six issue series for free. The books are not available to buy through Diamond but most good comics shops stock them. I bought mine from Gosh Comics in London and have seen TKO books in Forbidden Planet if that chain takes your usual weekly coin.

The trade and/or all the single issues are also available on Comixology here https://www.comixology.co.uk/TKO-Studios

You can also follow them on Twitter @TKOpresents and on Instagram @TKOpresents

Many thanks for reading.

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