Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Gabriel Walta
Color Artist: Gabriel Walta
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: TKO Studios
The year is 2105. The location is space, aboard the U.S.S. Montgomery. The crew aboard the colony ship consists of adults and children. That is, until a separatist attack kills all adults on the ship and leaves the children in the hands of VALARIE, the on-board A.I. She has to do something she was never programmed for: take care of a group of children while taking them to safe haven.
I’ve been a fan of TKO Studios from the very beginning. The one thing I especially enjoy about this comic publisher is that they only publish comic bundles and box sets. So you get the whole story, all at once. No need to wait for each issue to get published. You can just binge-read your heart out. That concept worked especially well with Sentient, which kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Let’s start with the art. The cover (of the bundle, not the box set issues) gives off this grim space vibe that creates the illusion of an abandoned spacecraft drifting off into the depths of space. While not entirely true, it fits the story. The art of the comic itself was something I had to get used to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good. Very good. But also very different from art I’ve seen in other comics. I think it’s cool to have art diversity in comics because it creates space for more creativity. The coloring felt different too. It’s soft and smudged and not always within the lines, and yet it works so well with the story it’s trying to tell. Needless to say, I love the art choices that the artist made.
Now on to the writing. The story started off with both unclarity and also a very clear setting. What I mean by unclarity is that the first page, in my head, didn’t correspond with the pages that followed. It was only after reading a few more pages that I flipped back to the first page, read it again, and realized which character was speaking in the narrative boxes. But from the start of the comic, the setting was clear. I immediately knew, without knowing the backstory, the dynamics between the characters and the general mood. It felt realistic, as far as families being in space is realistic to someone whose idea of being in space is formed by other forms of fiction.
Going further into the story, I felt more and more drawn into the world. I was reading this comic on the train to a comic con. The journey took almost two hours, and, when I finished reading, almost one hour had passed without me realizing it. I hadn’t been aware of my surroundings; the story just sucked me in. And that, to me, is good writing. Because you know that feeling when you’re starting to read faster when there’s a moment of suspense? Yeah, that happened.
Needless to say, I really recommend reading Sentient. While TKO Studios publishes stories in bundles, they’re (as far as we know) stories without a follow-up. There’s power in these short stories, and Sentient has this kind of power. You can order Sentient here.