Review: Sentient #1 (TKO Studios)

While there have been a great number of new, quality comics publishers springing up in recent years, TKO have come to the medium with a unique selling point; offering their readers an entire comic story in one go as either single issues or a trade, no waiting involved. Now, with their second wave of titles released, we take a look at the first issue of Sci-Fi tale Sentient by superstar creators Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Walta.

Publisher: TKO Studios
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Gabriel Walta (Artist), Sebastian Girner (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
Price: £1.99 per issue from ComiXology

Sentient tells the story of the USS Montgomery, a deep space colony ship transporting its crew and their children away from a dying Earth to a new colony and a fresh start. However, this particular day is an important one for Alex Wu and her daughter Lil as not only is it the latterly birthday but on this day the Montgomery is to enter the ‘Black Zone’, where contact with either their old home or new home will cease for a year. However, when hidden threat emerges to destroy the mission as they know it, Alex must take drastic action to protect the children by giving the ship’s artificial intelligence freedom from its programming, with tragic consequences.

Jeff Lemire has once again knocked it out of the park with a compelling and addictive story. Sentient’s first issue feels like it flows incredibly well, with fantastic pacing throughout. The issue appears to start off slow but continues to ramp up to something which feels much more kinetic with the turn of each page, as every plot point and revelation comes across as more shocking than the last. Lemire utilises every panel of this first issue so expertly, showing readers why he’s one of comics most popular writers, as he sets up everything we need to know about the world we are entering; from the layout of the ship (such as where the food is) to the societal political landscape which feeds into the actions presented here. All of this is presented in such a way that the reader feels so invested that by the time of the cliffhanger ending, you are already in need of the next instalment (working to the advantage of TKO’s set up).

This is all further enhanced by the input of the artistic team of Gabriel Walta and Sebastian Girner, both of whom deliver a stellar artistic style which suits the story perfectly. Walta once again brings his top notch work which worked so well in The Vision to this title. His style is perfect for being able to convey the emotion of the characters without Lemire’s script. This is best exemplified in the character of Kruger, whose facial features throughout the issue imply conflicted feelings for the character long before the story reveals her backstory. This continues throughout to the end of the issue where the final pages, which are enhanced by the tremendously muted colours of Sebastian Girner as well as the eerie digital dialogue of the ship’s artificial intelligence, come across as both incredibly brutal as well as immensely haunting.

Sentient #1 is exactly what you would come to expect from master creators like Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Walta; a mesmerising, engrossing and deeply emotional title which looks gorgeous and hooks the reader immediately with both its words and art. If the rest of this series is anything like it’s opening instalment, fans will want the rest of Sentient as soon as this issue has been read (which, fortunately, TKO can provide).