Finding humanity at the farthest reaches of space makes for a rather compelling science-fiction tale.
What waits for us out in the stars? In the case of the crew of the USS Montgomery, it’s heartbreak and hard lessons. The ship is heading out to a space colony out in the far reaches of space with a minimal crew. After an attack kills all the adults, the children are left to fend for themselves, but they’re not alone. The ship’s artificial intelligence, Valarie, is looking after them. They’ll need all the help they can get if they want to survive what comes next.
Sentient hits with a powerful opening chapter. Writer Jeff Lemire gets you settled into this status quo, hitting the basics of this setup before pulling the rug out from under you with a dynamite twist. It hits like a punch to the gut, changing everything and putting this book into exciting and uncharted waters.
Kids are emotional and volatile. They react quickly and tell you exactly how they feel. They can also be cruel even if it’s not intentional. All of those aspects are at play in Sentient, and dialed up to eleven given the setting of this ship out in space. This, coupled with the trauma each child is facing after the deaths of their parents, makes for some compelling storytelling.
Artist Gabriel Walta captures this perfectly. The cold reaches of space contrast with the fiery, exposed nerve quality of the emotions at play. Much is said with a single glance. You can see all the doubts and fears play out on the children’s faces as they struggle to figure out what to do next.
Walta’s linework is incredible. There are so many details to this ship and all the components within. What is really striking is how dark and suffocating the ship can be, even with how vast it is. It drives home just how alone these kids are, especially when their only other companion is the AI.
Valarie is an intriguing character. She is artificial and doesn’t have an actual body. The ship is her body really. Despite this, you can feel the care she has for the children and the doubts she has about taking care of them. She’s easily the most interesting character in Sentient with the vast amount of layers to her personality.
Letterer Steve Wands helps illustrate this with Valarie’s words. She mostly speaks in complete sentences, but occasionally stammers, like she’s searching for the right word. It adds to her character.
Sentient is a fascinating read looking at a very non-traditional family out in space. This may have a science-fiction setting and feature an artificial intelligence, but it’s a very human story at its heart. This is a must-read.