By Ben Snyder
Picking up immediately after issue #25, Descender #26 concludes the “Rise of the Robots” event arc. Unfortunately, the conclusion isn’t that satisfying because this issue actually really doesn’t even feel like a conclusion to but more so an introduction to a new arc. Every character is left on the precipice of a major story path, and it feels like a cheap, unnecessary cliffhanger. Despite this, issue #26 is still a worthy entry into the Descender story.
Descender #26 begins with Tim-21 making short work of Tim-22 and attempting to save the barely alive Dr. Quon. Due to Tim-21’s easy dismantling of Tim-22, it feels like that entire scenario took way to long. I feel like Dr. Quon, and Telsa have been defending against 22 the entire arc and could have progressed further much earlier, but they needed to catch up with 21 first. It’s amazing how human-like 21 is; it’s undeniable he is a robot- he can shoot beams out of his hands- but even Telsa has begun to attach to him. It’s even more amazing when you realize that these characters haven’t spent that much time together. A large part of these characters stories have been spent apart from each other. Then 21 and Telsa are seemingly dropped in the care of Dr. Solomon.
This arc specifically left me with a strong Star Wars feeling. This episode particularly sends me an Empire Strikes Back vibe as our party remains scattered and it seems as though that our youthful central protagonist is going to train with a master to gain a power buff. There are also robots and aliens, and that stuff is in Star Wars as well. You can even draw the parallels between Andy, Effie, and Bluffer and their counterparts Han, Leia, and Chewie. I don’t mean this as an insult as writer Jeff Lemire makes these characters feel alive and unique.
The key event of this issue was definitely the Hardwire’s unleashing of their sleeper agents. Seeing the cyborgs awaken and betray their counterparts on the respecting worlds was cool to see and I am glad that Dustin Nguyen got the opportunity to display each event with a splash panel. His art has always been a key asset to this story so giving him more space can never be a bad thing. But it also shined a spotlight on the world that this team has created, and how uneasy everyone has been since the last harvester attack. This is a worn in universe filled with scrappers and people trying to get by. Lemire has done a fantastic job populating it with interesting locals and characters that seem rife for further details and expansion. I’d love to see a whole new series set entirely on the planet Gnish with their king.
Besides the panels mentioned above, Nguyen’s art is consistently phenomenal in this issue. One aspect that I feel I don’t mention enough is the character design of the aliens and cyborgs, which was definitely a highlight of the Dr. Solomon reveal. Dr. Solomon’s robot assistant has to have one of the coolest robot designs I have seen in a while with its crystalline figure and the inner robotic mechanics showing through. Hopefully this character gets more detail in the following arc. Especially because it seems that he is the one calling Tim-21 his progeny, so could this actually be Tim-21’s dad?
Descender #26 attempts to wraps up the “Rise of the Robots” story line, but instead it seems to invite more questions. Rarely has their been a poor Descender issue and this one follows suit. However, I can’t shake the feeling that more could have been with this arc and more story beats could have been accomplished. Heck, I’d always take more Driller-centric issues.