The new three-issue miniseries from Image imprint Shadowline, "Descendant," follows the adventures of Rayne Santiago, a South American refugee and now a U.S. counter terrorism agent, believed to be the descendant of an ancient Incan fire God. The series creators, writers Mike Dolce and Marcus Perry, along with artist Mariano Navarro, spoke with CBR News about "Descendant," it's blend of action and fantastic elements, and also about bananas.
"Rayne is forced to return to her South American homeland of Martagal when she receives word that her brothers have been abducted by a rogue pharmaceutical conglomerate bent on using their DNA to manufacture super powers," Mole Dolce told CBR. "Exiled from her country years ago for abusing her own innate pyrokinetic abilities, Rayne must not only win back the trust of her people, but also overcome her fear of the powers that lay dormant inside her in order to rescue her brothers from the regime's sinister commander, Dr. Alexis Bane."
"She's been on her own since she was a teenager," Dolce continued. "And all she desperately wants is to be able to open to those around her - especially to her commanding officer William Priest who serves as her love interest in the story. But after the traumatic events of her youth, she finds its way easier blowing away terrorist cells than showing off her more vulnerable side."
"Rayne is a woman at war with herself," added Marcus Perry. "She feels tremendous shame and guilt toward the powers she believes make her a 'freak,' and has hidden them from everyone in her life. But the effect of that deception is becoming toxic, and she's desperate to slay her demons."
The series villain is the steely Dr. Alexis Bane. "Clinical and calculating, she is driven by the desire to accelerate human evolution through manufacturing super powers," said Perry. "She believes it's her calling to elevate humanity, and will stop at nothing to realize it."
Dolce added that Bane's plans to manufacture super powers are based on Santiago DNA. "And that includes Rayne's two brothers Marco and Javier."
"Finally," he continued, "Father Vergarra is Rayne's former mentor from when she was a child and the catalyst for bringing her into the crisis that now besieges Martagal."
Dolce characterizes "Descendant" as being like the Dark-Phoenix-meets-"24." "You have someone who's as potentially dangerous and as god-like as Jean Grey, only she's been militarily trained like Jack Bauer to keep her emotions in check to accomplish the mission. Plus there's a great mix of military espionage and super heroics."
The inspiration for "Descedant" came from a most unexpected place...or rather an unexpected fruit. "Chiquita bananas," said Dolce. "I read somewhere it was rumored in the '50s that President Eisenhower had sent the US military into a South American country to overthrow the regime in power with the sole reason of raising the value of his stock in Chiquita Bananas. So I came to Marcus with the idea of what if a superhuman was manipulated into doing the same thing, thinking she's saving her country from a ruthless regime, but in reality ushering in something far worse. Because of her actions, she's cast out only to have to return to save them years later.
"Marcus kind of took that idea and ran with it in a way cooler direction. He (wisely) suggested doing away with the conspiracy angle and focusing more on the internal struggle of a character at odds with herself and her powers. We both wanted to do something with a counter terrorist/military angle, and Marcus came up with the real nuts and bolts of the villain, her motives and Rayne's brothers being the catalyst for the story from there."
In selecting Rayne's power, the choice felt obvious to Perry and Dolce. "It's in the jungle, so let's have someone who can napalm the shit out things," Perry said. "Sophisticated thinkers, aren't we? But visually, we knew it would be dynamic, and Rayne's inner struggle evolved from there. Fire served as a perfect metaphor for the forces raging out of control inside her, one that could be contained through discipline and experience, and made sense for Rayne's arc."
"As for Dr. Bane," Perry continued, "she was a tougher nut to crack. I think villains always are. After all, your hero is only as effective as the villain allows them to be, but motivations like 'world domination' always seem too hokey. Mike and I felt that manufacturing super powers for profit was the best gain, as money is relatable, but we were also able to add another layer to Bane. She genuinely feels she's bettering humanity through her torturous experiments -- that mankind must continue to evolve if it hopes to survive, and endowing the world with these fantastic powers is the next step."
Perry and Dolce had wanted to work on a project together several years, after meeting on the convention circuit promoting their respective works. Dolce self-published a comic book called "The Sire" while Perry created an award winning film short called "Razor Sharp."
"We began plotting out 'Descendant' before we ever had an artist in mind," Dolce said. "A friend of mine, Brendan McGinley (also a Shadowline webcomic creator and all around good dude) recommended to me an Argentine artist he had met named Mariano Navarro. I got in contact with him and after I saw his samples I immediately emailed Marcus with the subject header that read, 'This is the guy!'"
"As soon as I read the plot and knew this project was for Image I didn't have to think twice about it," Navarro told CBR.
"Mariano brings the comic to life," said Perry. "He's got a remarkable sense of composition and drama that makes the characters real. I'm blown away with his ability to convey even the subtlest of emotions, and his action ain't too shabby either. He's our secret weapon."
Navarro keeps three things in mind in his approach to creating the visual world of "Descendant." "First of all," said the artist, "I prioritize the story over the drawings; and by story I mean the balanced fusion of script and images. A comic can't be a competition between these two; the story is the star of the show and my job is to tell it as beautifully and effectively as possible.
"Second, I read and re-read the script so I can get the true feelings and motivations of each character. This allows me to give them a better acting and body language, which is the core of my method, probably dating back to my long time working as an animator. Fortunately, Mike and Marcus' script is very eloquent and descriptive and they really pay attention to character development, so this project has run really smoothly for me.
"As for aesthetics," Navarro concluded, "I always work in black and white. I mean I work with the layers and the contrasts as if the book was to be published in black and white, so that the color can then be complementary to the inks and shine by itself instead of struggling to 'pick the images up,' so to speak. Lighting, textures and scene moods should be the work of the artist without using the color as a crutch."
"'Descendant' may be an action series, but it's loaded with character and humor as well," said Perry in discussing the series' target audience. "If you dig superheroes or action movies like 'The Bourne Identity' and 'Man On Fire,' this series is for you."
"There's a little bit of everything in it: action, romance, guns, super powers - it's got it all!" Dolce agreed.
If the series is successful, readers can count on the creators to continue the story of "Descendant." "We've barely scratched the surface of Rayne Santiago's destiny," said Perry. "If the readers want more, it'll be waiting for them."
Descendant #1 hits the stands on July 15 from Shadowline and Image Comics.