Sentient–TKO Studios adds sci-fi to the mix with new Lemire/Walta series


Review by C.J. Bunce

The next six-issue series that is also released as a complete graphic novel from publisher TKO Studios is a science fiction story called Sentient.  Familiar comic book writer Jeff Lemire (Descender, Old Man Logan, Green Arrow) has a new story to tell that is a mash-up of this year’s earlier Grant Sputore-directed, direct-to-Netflix film I Am Mother (reviewed here at borg), the plotting and visuals of the gutsy Orbiter 9 (reviewed here), and the desperation of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence’s ill-fated transport ship story, Passengers (reviewed here).  As the idea of a human trip to Mars has gained interest, we’ve seen an uptick in the sub-genre delving into the actual work required to make such a far-off journey possible, along with a host of horrific possibilities that may confront us.  It’s materialized in films like Alien: Covenant plus the Lost in Space TV series reboot.  Sentient is also the latest take on Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s story of kids governing themselves without adult supervision.


Just as the space frigate USS Montgomery clears the barrier where communications are broken off from both Earth and their destination colony for an entire year, the ship is sabotaged.  The artificial intelligence on the ship, a female voice called Valarie, attempts to coordinate a recovery, but it becomes too late–all of the adults on the ship are killed as a result of the chaos caused by the saboteur, and what remains are the cordoned off children, who Valarie must train to continue the mission.  Even the A.I. has her own misgivings–she’s just not programmed to become a surrogate mother.  Fortunately the oldest, Lil (who just celebrated a birthday and could be 12 or 13 years old), and Isaac, the son of the saboteur, are young but smart, the kind of kids who probably went through Space Camp before their mission.  These aren’t naïve kids–they immediately understand the pressure and responsibility that falls on them.

Lemire’s steady and thoughtful pacing sets up artist Gabriel Walta (Doctor Strange) for a great visual showpiece, highlighting a style and colors that may have you thinking this is the next iteration of Matt Kindt’s DeptH series–even the character faces look like they were drawn by Kindt with his trademark clean and simple imagery and muted tones.

Here are some preview pages, courtesy of TKO Studios:

When the violence arrives it’s quick, bleak, and bloody.  Lemire and Walta waste no time–the entire set-up is in the first chapter, and right on time at the midpoint Valarie and the kid crew must face a new menace.  The kids are smartly balanced, with Isaac, whose burden is greater than the others, understanding the importance of forging on, and Lil, who goes through all the frustrations of anyone (think Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers) when suddenly realizing the odds of dying soon have been greatly increased.

Lemire deftly handles the key science fiction elements including Valarie’s limitations as an untrained computer who has no arms and legs to hug and hold the kids, unlike as seen in I Am Mother, but she does have the ability to manipulate robotics on board when required.  Unlike the eight and ten-part typical binge/streaming TV series, keeping the story to six chapters means no time is wasted on filler, so the writing is kept tight up to the final page.  Steve Wands, letterer on the six-issue series, keeps the reader always aware of who is talking with his division of colors and type (most useful for Valarie, who is always off-screen), never missing a beat.

Like many of the TKO Studios titles, Sentient sets itself up in its final chapter for a continuing story ahead, should TKO determine to continue the series.  It’s another good book from the publisher, and its first venture into science fiction.  A good read for any science fiction reader or comic book fan, and like Lord of the Flies this should appeal to a young adult audience, too, Sentient is available soon from Elite Comics, at the TKO Studios website here, also to be available for order this month at Amazon.

Leave a Reply