It’s a joyous day for all of us, because Descender is finally back with a new issue after the first trade. For all of you who have been reading in singles since the beginning: rejoice, for your wait is over. For those of you who picked up the first volume and are just now joining the story: celebrate, because you didn’t have to wait very long at all. The story begins with a mysterious new character who’s tracking down several robots for a scrapper bounty. We’ll check back in on him later. Meanwhile, the story shifts to TIM-21 and the gang, who are in the process of being rescued by Psius and The Hardwire (plus TIM-21’s sociopath of a brother, TIM-22). As we follow them off planet and into new danger with the Hardwire, we’re given a peek into TIM-21’s past that’s coming back to haunt everyone in the story.
When I’m reading an issue for review, I keep a notebook handy to jot down thoughts to ruminate on until it’s time to actually type the review up. Most times, the notes are short, neat and to the point, but for Jeff Lemire’s best work, of which Descender is certainly one, they’re messy, they’re in all caps, and they’re just things like “BANDIIIIIIIIIIIT!!” The man has a way of finding the exact emotional threads to pull in a storyline to really draw me in, and after a bit of a hiatus, Descender is still playing each of those threads like a harp. Even in the structure of this issue, Lemire rises above the material—the reveal is one that you can see coming from almost the very beginning of the issue, but the pacing of his writing, coupled with Nguyen’s masterful composition keep you on the edge of your seat until the final splash. It’s one of those situations where you know what the twist is going to be, but the story is so well-told that you can’t even help but enjoy it.
And while we’re talking about Dustin Nguyen: holy shit, what a master. The choice of the team to do this book in Nguyen’s watercolor style is such an inspired one. It gives the world of TIM-21 and the UGC a lived-in feeling, like how Star Wars was a revelation for being one of the first movies about technologically advanced civilizations where things were still dirty and broken. The texture of the paper Nguyen uses comes through, and his soft color palette helps highlight moments of shocking violence, or give even more dreamlike qualities to flashbacks. It makes Descender feel like a very old story from a galaxy very far away, an artifact that landed in Lemire’s backyard that he showed to his friend Nguyen, and that they chose to gift to the world.
The book wouldn’t feel complete without the lettering and design of Steve Wands. The differences in balloons between human characters and robots is striking of course, but even within the robot class, there are divisions. Psius has a bolded, all caps style in very regular, rounded rectangles; TIM-21, a more human robot with higher emotional circuitry, still has sharp rectangular balloons, but they have shaky outlines, like a small child with a quavering voice. He also is able to do things like make the sound effects look like they’re coming in three dimensions—it’s probably a fairly simple trick, but seeing the sound effect from a blaster move from the back of the panel to the front really helps sell it, and it looks great.
Descender is one of those books that, as a comics creator myself, infuriates me. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but somehow this book shows up on the shelves as a perfect little machine, functioning at its highest capacity, with each member of the creative team shining through. If you’re not buying this book, there’s no helping you. Is it possible that it is you who is the robot?
Decender #7 Writer: Jeff Lemire Illustrator: Dustin Nguyen Letterer/Designer: Steve Wands Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 11/11/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital