By Ben Snyder
Descender #27 takes place 4,000 years before the events of the main story and while that fact alone may seem like the beginnings of an entry brimming with filler and unnecessary material and for the most part it is, but writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen do enough to craft interesting enough characters to guide us through their exploration of the Harvesters and their creators.
A majority of this issue is told through the lens of one of the space explorers’ journal entry as he embarks toward new horizons. While experimenting in outer space the character, known as the “Master professor” and his assistant Apprentice Kelik are contacted by a giant Harvester and teleported to its homeland, and that is pretty much all that happens in this issue. A lot of time is spent on the master professor’s homeworld of Ostrakon with glimpses of its religious practices and civilizations and a majority of it feels unnecessary.
I understand the intention, Lemire wants to flesh out as many and varied civilizations as he can and he wants us to care about the Master Professor and Kelik, but so much time is spent on Ostrakon and in the spaceship, it feels forced. We don’t need to know how diligent the professor and Kelik are towards their experiments because we know they presumably aren’t going to be around for long. They act as vessels to interact with the Harvesters. It would be a different story if this issue took place a couple hundred years before the main story because then there’d be some slim hope of the character’s survival. But we know these characters are long gone so do we really need all of these details. Not that Lemire does a terrible job with it; as he incorporates enough of his signature nuance and emotion to make the professor and Kelik likable.
I am very interested to learn more about the Harvesters’ home world as not much is known at all about these structures of destruction. And the information that their home world is littered with robots is not only clever but also fascinating. It leaves us with the question of who created them. And why were the professor and Kelik chosen to meet them peacefully as it seems the Harvesters destroy every other trace of organic life.
I’d recommend by this issue based on Dustin Nguyen’s art alone. This entire series he has been stellar in his use of color, line work, figures, and overall character design and this issue reads like a greatest hits album for him. The Ostrakians looks similar enough to us where they evoke empathy and emotion from the reader but different enough where we can distinguish them as aliens. Their futuristic and clean society blends perfectly with his muddled and faded colors.
But in the professor and Kelik’s initial encounter with the Harvester Nguyen takes it to another level. I want this image blown up and hanging on my wall. The scale and sheer might of the Harvesters is on full display in comparison to the ship. And the colors Nguyen uses create a quiet destructive beauty to the monolithic entities that only enhances their mystique. Nguyen then tops it off with some of the most interesting alien design I have seen in a long time. His art is sensational in this issue.
A lot of information in Descender #27 may feel unneeded or unwarranted, but Lemire does enough to justify its existence while enticing us with answers regarding the ancient Harvesters and their creators. However the real star of this issue is Dustin Nguyen’s art, as it simply should not go missed.