By Ben Snyder
In Descender #24, we catch up with a seemingly forgotten friend in Driller. It’s a true shame that issues like this don’t come more often, because in these quieter, smaller character driven issues Jeff Lemire’s skills as a writer prevail, shedding light and humanity on what could be a simplistic robotic character.
From the onset of this tale, it seemed like a huge Star Wars-esque story incorporating multiple characters was against Lemire’s typical style. Lemire is most famously known for his more intimate character studies such as Essex County and The Underwater Welder, and unfortunately, it has remained the case throughout Descender. It’s not that Lemire’s grand space opera of a story is particularly bad, in fact even in its poorest issues Descender is still one of the best stories running, it’s just that when we do get the issues that focus on a singular character, it makes the other story arcs pale in comparison.
In this issue, we catch up on Driller and Mizerd the swamp guy while they attempt to find Driller some more oil. And that pretty much it, nothing truly eventful or story changing happens but the quiet moments between Driller and Mizerd speak volumes. Driller, still reeling from the revelation that he is the actual reason for Tim-21 and Andy’s Mother’s Death, shows more emotion and remorse than most people would show in the situation. Driller has embraced the fact that he is a killer going so far as egging on the onslaught like a punch-drunk boxer.
This emotional turmoil is made present when the goblins attack, to which Driller shouts that he has no soul before brutally destroying the goblins. The circumstance of the situation almost makes one forget that goblins exist in this futuristic sci-fi world that Lemire has created.
I kind of wish we could get an entire series based off of Driller which is something I never thought I would have said a couple issues prior. Before he voluntarily ejected himself into deep space, I viewed Driller as a simple robot but Lemire has imbued a tremendous amount of emotion into this character. I felt oddly disappointed at the end when we learned how Driller’s tale would wrap into the overarching narrative of galactic war.
Dustin Nguyen’s watercolor style is consistently excellent in this series. The swamp area looks particularly ethereal and looks eerily similar to the planet Dagobah from Star Wars. The goblin character design looks a little too cartoony for my taste, with their bulging eyes, red nose, and skull bombs. They don’t quite fit into the overarching sci-fi realism he has established so far. I also am not quite sure if they are a different species than the vampire’s Driller and Mizerd meet later. They look similar enough where the vampires could be a subspecies of the previously seen goblins but it is not made clear. All in all, this is a minor gripe and a stupid complaint. The art is overall generally beautiful.
Descender #24 is another excellent entry to the series. While it total separation from the core story may make some feel like it’s unnecessary and fillery, I feel otherwise. I feel that without these core character issues are essential to the making us care about the overarching plot and it’s consequences. I guess my only complaint is that we don’t get enough of them in this series.