By Robert Larson
I’ve done nothing but complain about Descender’s current story arc. It’s been nothing but a cheap stalling tactic; half of the stories we’ve seen have been things we’ve already known, making this nothing more than repetition. So it was with not inconsiderable dread that I picked up this latest issue, only to be pleasantly surprised by the story that I got. If it didn’t resolve the broader issue that this has just been a six-month way to put off telling what happened to Tim, at least this given issue managed to tell a good story that is actually relevant to the broader plot. Warning: I will be discussing spoilers in this review.
We learn some of Driller’s biography in this issue. He was sent to the same mining colony Tim grew up on, but years before with another robot who got the nickname Scoops. Working for a brutal overseer, they still managed to carve out a friendship. But a mining accident with a poison gas pocket cripples Scoops at the exact moment of the Harvester attack, and enraged when the humans decide to abandon Scoops, he reopens the seam and kills the people who remained behind.
The big revelation does a good job of explaining how Andy’s mother and the other people were killed if the place wasn’t blown apart by the Harvesters. It also sets the stage for violence between Driller and Andy: should Andy learn what happened, there’s no way he’ll let Driller live. Of course, Driller is the only one who knows about this, but there are at least hints that Driller feels some kind of remorse for what he did.
Where this really shines though is where the rest of the story arc has fallen so flat: actually shining light on how Driller came to be as a character and making it interesting. Tim-22’s issue made it clear but was so brief that it could have been six pages; Andy’s rage at robots is never really explained, given that that’s not how his mother died (which he easily could have figured out); the significance of Bandit’s story could be done in a single page; Telsa’s story actually repeated what we already knew. But Driller has mostly been in the background, and his anger toward humans has been a mystery. If Tim-22 suffered, he at least had the benefit of being created for something other than miserable toil, even given a human face so that others could empathize with him (not that it helped). Driller was never meant for anything other than toil, and never treated as anything more than a walking drill bit.
Next issue, I guess we finally get to figure out what the hell happens to Tim and the rest of the gang. I’m not going to lie, Lemire is going to have to do some serious work to buy back my interest in this series, but at least this issue, he’s got me going for another shot.
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: Image Comics