Sentient is published by TKO Studios, written by Jeff Lemire, with art and colors by Gabriel Walta, and letters by Steve Wands. The story is centered around a colony ships’ onboard artificial intelligence system guiding a group of children through deep space after their parents were murdered.
The series opens up with some very ominous visuals, as a dead woman floats lifelessly through the vacuum of space. The narration over the top of the visuals tells a story that appears to be unrelated to this event. However, we learn that 33 colonists aboard the USS Montgomery have left Earth to repopulate the species on a new planet. Planet Earth has degraded to a point that it will become uninhabitable in the next decade or two. The ship’s crew is currently preparing to enter the Osler radiation belt, a black zone that will block communications coming in, and going out. This creates the perfect opportunity for a mutiny.
Unrest has spread as word from the Colony reports there is already fighting between a group of separatists and the existing governmental organizations that hope to transition their positions and sense of law and order from one planet to another. There is a belief among some that the Colony should be a fresh start from all prior hierarchies given the current physical state of Planet Earth. Officer Kruger believes this to be truer than the rest. She decides to take action by murdering the other adults aboard the ship. Sensing the children are in danger, the ships A.I., Valerie (or Val), takes out Officer Kruger, leaving only the youngest crew members from the daycare to pilot the ship for the next year.
That synopsis barely covers issue one and the remaining five issues delivers one of the most phenomenal, and intense arcs I have read in a long time. The focus falls firmly on the development of the children, as they work with ‘Val’ to survive deep space in order to make it the Colony alive.
Lemire has captured something truly gripping in Sentient. Space is terrifying. It is a vast, obscure amount of nothingness. So to have that explored through the lens of a child amplifies the fear factor. During one sequence, the eldest girl, and thus the highest-ranking crew member, Lillian, explores what looks likes an abandoned fuel station to be used for the Colonists. As Lil investigates, you can feel the weight of the isolation and the lack of any noise. The lack of life is a daunting prospect.
Where this story continues to pull you in and leaves you wanting more, is in the character development. The two lead characters of Lillian and Isaac are forced into impossible situations and what they’ve witnessed would be enough to overwhelm any adult. As the issues develop, their bond with the ships A.I., Val, is truly endearing.
These themes are further elevated by the visuals deployed from Walta. Every panel mirrors the story perfectly. Great comics are truly lifted when all of the creative members are producing in harmony and Sentient delivers that in great abundance. Walta is able to capture the horror, distraught, and grief in these children’s faces that will leave a lasting impression. The restraint of color throughout the issues is so intelligently utilized. There is a very distinct pattern or tone of colors used. Earthy browns and greens mixed with drab grays capture the lifeless mood that this story strives for.
I tore through this trade paperback and was left dejected when I finally reached the final page and realized I’d have to wait for the next volume. TKO’s binge approach to comics is so satisfying, giving readers all six-issues to pour over and engage in the story rather than trickle out the plot month by month. I drank in the pages and lived on board the USS Montgomery with these kids as they overcame inconceivable obstacles. I can’t recommend this series enough, it is worth every second of your time, just don’t read it too fast.
Sentient is available in stores now.
I tore through this trade paperback and was left dejected when I finally reached the final page and realized I’d have to wait for the next volume. I drank in the pages and lived on board the USS Montgomery with these kids as they overcame inconceivable obstacles. I can’t recommend this series enough, it is worth every second of your time, just don’t read it too fast.