Writer(s): Jeff Lemire.
Artist(s): Gabriel Hernández Walta.
Letterer(s): Steve Wands.
Publisher: TKO Studios.
Release Date: October 2019.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Adults play a crucial role in the development of children. Where else would one find an example to follow? Through words and action, children absorb their parent’s visions of the world and build upon them until they are old enough to question their understanding of the world by themselves. But how would children obtain such guidance if they are alone, plunged in darkness, in the middle of nowhere, out in space, with only an A.I. to assure their survival? Although familiar due to its numerous science-fiction tropes, writer Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Black Hammer) and Gabriel Walta (The Vision) work together to deliver a riveting tale of innocence, survival, and hope with a unique cast of characters mostly composed of children and a faceless mother.
What is Sentient about? The story follows a group of adults, children, and an A.I. named Valerie on a colony ship known as the U.S.S. Montgomery. As they set on course for a newly colonized planet, away from the inhabitable planet Earth, they approach a communications dead zone where chaos and tragedy promises a terrifying fate for the passengers: all adults fall prey to a plot-gone-wrong, leaving the children alone with the ship’s A.I. for the rest of their journey. Unburdened by her previous programming to now take care of the children on board and safely bring them to the colony, Val must commandeer the crew despite the trauma, grief, and anger felt by the children. Amidst the conflict among them, unexpected surprises lead the remaining survivors onto a journey that will require them to look beyond themselves if they are to survive.
“After that, things started to change. We started to change. And so did Val. If only I knew then what I know now… Maybe I could have saved her.”— Jeff Lemire
Amalgaming the themes that writer Jeff Lemire is accustomed to exploring in his stories, he now successfully explores tragedy between individuals in a pseudo-family context through children destined to grow under the supervision of an A.I. without any blood ties to rely upon. He brilliantly explores the raw emotions of these children, notably two characters who continuously engage in conflict by being weighed down by the past mistakes of a previous generation. Through this story, writer Jeff Lemire demonstrates the universal instinct of survival that transcends emotional rifts between individuals by putting these children through intense adversity. He also uses the A.I. as a surrogate mother who embraces her role through past observations, giving the children an authoritative voice to rely upon to try and overcome their emotional turmoil.
Complementary to the space opera narrative, artist Gabriel Hernández Walta delivers a tremendous artistic vision that ceaselessly captures the harsh emotional state of its cast and the mysterious emptiness of space. Often painting a portrait of loneliness, hopelessness, and uncertainty, he effortlessly establishes an unpleasant atmosphere where the absence of cohesiveness and understanding between the characters clearly paves the way towards insatiable tension. The colour palette indulged also reflects the gloomy air within the U.S.S. Montgomery. With warmer colours that look drained of life and promise, it easily establishes the story’s tone, allowing the reader to understand the particular context in which these children must evolve. With the added dramatic effect from the rougher artwork, there’s no denying the engaging nature of this wonderful short story.
Sentient is an immersive and harrowing story of survival among children in space with key themes of responsibility, motherhood, and solidarity.