Sentient: review of Lemire's space odyssey

Sentient: review of Lemire's space odyssey
Can artificial intelligence replace maternal love? This question has already emerged in science fiction, taking the form of films like Mother, and has influenced the vivid imagination of Jeff Lemire, who made this question the starting point of his Sentient, a new comic for the TKO Studios label, which Panini publishes in this year finale.

Lemire's name certainly needs no introduction. We are talking about one of the authors who, in recent years, has tried his hand at some of the most delicate issues in the world of comics, giving his own vision and reworking them with wisdom and courage. It would be enough to mention the excellent work done with Black Hammer, with which Lemire modernized the superhero concept, or with Tokio Ghost, one of the best forays of cyberpunk into the world of comics. Lemire's strong point is knowing how to interpret well-known narrative ideas with great personality, creating a familiar and welcoming setting, in which to develop stories that leverage unique emotions and situations.

Sentient is no exception to this rule. A one-shot story that pays homage to the great classic themes of sci-fi, literature and cinema, making them the starting points of a dramatic adventure that is experienced through the eyes of characters we hardly see as protagonists: children.

Sentient: salvation is artificial intelligence

THE USS Montgomery is a human spaceship that is taking a group of exiles from our planet to a new planetary colony. The Earth is now a world close to collapse and the search for a new home among the stars is the only hope for humanity, which despite the now inevitable end is still deeply divided, with struggles between different factions who would like to follow different plans to give a tomorrow to the next generations. It matters little that our world has just under ten years of survival left, the human spirit does not seem to be able to help but see enemies and animate disputes even in these extreme conditions.

In particular, a terrorist group seeks to subvert the mission of colonizing the new worlds, a will that leads to an attack on the USS Montgomery. In fact, during a meeting of all the adult crew, a plan is implemented that leaves the children on board as the only survivors and the attacker, also a mother. To complicate careful planning, Valerie, the A.I. on board, which including the incident does not hesitate to kill the woman responsible for the attack, condemning the children to have to face the rest of the journey to the colony without adults.

For the onboard artificial intelligence it becomes one life purpose to guarantee the survival of the little ones, giving life to an atypical family, animated by all the normal tensions that can be found in a family nucleus.

Sentient, like other works by Lemire, re-presents the theme of the family . Declined in different ways, this theme is also present in the aforementioned Black Hammer and Tokyo Ghost, and is one of the typical narrative cues of Lemire's narrative. In this sci-fi setting, his presence is intertwined with the discussion on the relationship between synthetic and organic, showing a 'human' evolution of Val, the A.I. of the USS Montgomery.

Lemire is particularly attentive in describing his progressive attachment to the little survivors, which from an initial respect for a computer protocol takes on the tones of true parental anxiety. From teaching how to survive in a hostile environment like that of space to the almost palpable anxiety of seeing their children face dangers that leave us helpless, Val experiences the challenges and fears of parenting in an atypical way, becoming a reference figure for the little ones. astronauts.

Like every family, there is no shortage of contrasts. The trigger event of the tragedy behind Sentient also becomes a sentence for one of the survivors, Isaac, who finds himself the target of everyone's hatred for the sole fault of being the son of Jill Kruger, the one who caused the death of the crew's adults. It matters little that Isaac proves to be an essential element of the group of survivors, it seems that his fondness for Lil, who is particularly hateful towards her, is of no benefit to his condition.

A family in fight for survival

Yet, Isaac, with only Valarie's support, is often the one who resolves the most dangerous situations, without hesitation and moved by a desire to prove himself different from his mother, in search of a redemption that will bring him to be accepted by what has become his family among the stars. Lemire builds a perfect emotional and social dynamic, helping himself by building an environment that recalls some of the great tragedies of the science fiction imaginary (such as Alien), creating an emotional tension that scratches the heart of the reader, forced to witness helplessly the fears and hopes of this crew of reckless children. There are some episodes of this particularly hard space odyssey, lashes to the soul of the reader that Lemire builds with extreme calm, creating a pathos that culminates in the right moments, with an amazing intensity enhanced by the childhood vision of Isaac and his companions in misfortune.

A constant tension that is best conveyed by the drawings of Gabriel Walta. Already appreciated for his work on King's Vision, Walta shows that he has an excellent mastery of the emotional construction of the characters, with an ever-timely care of their expressiveness, capable of emphasizing the precarious and desperate condition of the little protagonists. Even in the hardest and most merciless moments, such as the 'space' funeral, Walta manages to find a stylistic figure that does justice to the intense emotions of the survivors, showing a complex and vivid emotional range, compatible with an extreme situation experienced by young minds that show all their fragility.

Sentient is a read that every sci-fi fan should try. While not particularly original in terms of its initial concept, it is Lemire's way of developing a sci-fi classic that makes Panini's book a collector's item for our library.



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