By Ben Snyder
In Descender #25, Jeff Lemire delivers a satisfying penultimate issue to the Rise of The Robots arc. While the arc has been good so far, delivering shocking character developments and an entry into the Driller Saga, in issue #25 Lemire seems to finally begin setting up an arc that feels like it’s been in the makings for a while now- Tim-21 acknowledging his Jedi/chosen one powers.
The main narrative thrust in this issue revolves around Tim-21 as all of his former crew is looking for him. Effy, Andy, and Blugger need him to barter with the UGC, The UGC is finally in on Tim’s shared knowledge of the Harvesters, and Telsa needs Tim-21 to protect her. Although the entire series has more or less revolved around Tim-21, this is the first time it feels as though he has greatly contributed to the overall plot besides existing to form a group around him. Often he seemed to be at the mercy of Telsa, Quon, or the Hardwire’s agenda leaving him to feel like a chess piece and for the most part, he still reads similarly. However, in this chapter, Tim undergoes a “Skywalker-force-training moment” in which he sees all of his friends in danger and finally acts to save them.
Seeing Tim finally act and begin to save someone felt good and was a much needed payoff for a character that was beginning to feel a bit stale. It feels like Tim’s lack of agency in bringing forth his “powers” for lack of better words might become a recurring theme in the future however which I think undermines the character. It seems as if the story will make Tim a conduit for the Harvesters and the UGC to communicate in through which negates his power upgrade and his agency in the battles to come. I’d much rather prefer to see Tim’s decision making on what side he will choose in these future battles especially because we know he has emotions or at least the capability to display emotion which I think is a testament to Lemire’s writing that Tim reads like a scared and lonely little kid.
Tim-21 has remorse for hurting the robots he is escaping from. He is genuinely scared and alone when he meets Bandit in cyberspace, and he feels kinship when he blasts off to save Telsa. Seeing as the rest of the Hardwire only seem to display anger against the humans, Tim’s depth of emotions seems like it will play a key part in his link to the Harvesters and his future fate.
Dustin Nguyen’s beautiful watercolor technique is on full display in this issue. Nguyen is extremely impressive when tasked with displaying emotion considering his style is very lacking in minute facial detail as Tim looks like a scared little kid who is about to cry while stealing the escape pod. But then Nguyen totally juxtaposes this with the amazing two-page spread of Tim having his mechanical enlightening and it really just looks badass. The detailing of the inner workings of Tim’s head are both spiritual and hyper mechanical.
A lot of the impact of this issue hinges on how Lemire follows it up and sets up the next arc. As much as I would love another Driller-centric issue, it seems counter-intuitive to pump the breaks on the development of Tim-21 seeing as it’s only getting more and more interesting. However with all of these threads hanging in the balance, it’s hard to deny how satisfying it was to see Tim-21 finally start acting on his own.