One look at Dustin Nguyen’s lush watercolor pages makes it clear that a lot of work goes into creating something so effortlessly endearing.
That paradox is just one example of the fascinating contrasts in which Nguyen excels, and they’re more evident than ever before in Descender, his collaboration with Jeff Lemire, which hits stores today. The subject matter (the aftermath of a universal genocide by giant robotic beings known as Harvesters) is grim stuff, but with Nguyen’s patented inkwash and watercolor technique, the series is one of the most beautiful post-apocalyptic tales in recent memory.
Descender may seem like a departure for an artist whose most recent work was on all-ages Batman holiday specials in Batman: Li’l Gotham, but Nguyen has never been afraid to show the versatility of his artistic style. He got his start by working with writing team Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning at Wildstorm in 2000, on series like Gen-Active and Jet, then made his mark on some of that imprint’s top titles before joining Judd Winick on a gig in the main Batman series.
Since then, Gotham has always seemed to hold a special place in Nguyen’s heart: he worked with Paul Dini on Detective Comics and later on the gritty Batman: Streets of Gotham, and worked with Derek Fridolfs on both the Batman Beyond Unlimited ongoing and Li’l Gotham.
Even that series showed that Nguyen has a distinctive vision that’s hard to pin down. “It’s a certain look I want,” he told USA Today when Batman: Li’l Gotham went bi-weekly. “For me, I do it because it’s so much fun, and if I change the way I work, it’ll become work and I don’t want that.”
In Descender, his familiarity with a child’s perspective (he told USA Today that his young daughter “is constantly checking my work”) helps to hit the right pitch of Lemire’s poetic script. It’s an exciting new direction for the hard-working artist, and there’s no doubt that he’s up to the challenge of whatever heartbreak and heroics lie ahead.
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