By Ben Snyder
Descender #28 succeeds for many reasons that the previous issue failed. It feels relevant to the overall story, it’s story is interesting if a bit tedious in the beginning, we finally learn what exactly a “Descender” is, and it features Dustin Nguyen’s stellar art. Descender #28 still isn’t a perfect issue as many of the pitfalls of the story are still present, but it is still a marked improvement over the previous entries.
Out of all of Jeff Lemire’s current series, Descender is probably his weakest storytelling wise. Lemire specializes in the hyper-personal often relying on the inescapable melancholy that comes with being a teenager (Royal City), a trapped superhero (Black Hammer), or any of his other notable character studies. Descender was unique in that it offered him the chance to craft a universe with as much detail as he gifted his individuals and unfortunately, the series has not met his standards as it gears towards its inevitable end. Let me be clear, Lemire is probably my favorite creator in the business right now, and Essex County is one of my favorite books of all time, but Descender has simply been well below his mark.
All of that being said, Descender #28 is still an enjoyable read once you get past the first couple pages. #28 picks up right at the end of the previous issue with Kelik and Osris learning from the advanced race of self-titled, “Descenders”. They call themselves Descenders because supposedly all life descended from them and it’s a fascinating concept, it simply takes way to long to get there. Instead we have to slog through a couple pages of Osris’s journal entries and Kelik unceremoniously dying. This flashback chapter and a half seemed totally unconcerned with the characters focusing only on the final reveal, and it ultimately begs the question of what was the point? I felt like this entire chapter and a half could have been explained in an exposition dump at the least. And while I don’t want that, I’d appreciate more than a chapter and a half of filler information filled with characters that don’t matter.
When the story does swing back to the present, it is fun again though, and the script finally feels urgent again and it does inspire hope for the next chapter. Don’t let my previous rant discourage readers, the ending of chapter #28 justifies the issue as a must read to fans of the series. It just might not be as fun to get to that reveal.
Nguyen’s art is solid in this chapter although the first couple of pages are pretty lackluster. In these pages Nguyen uses exceptionally light pastels and minimal details to emphasize the rapid passing of time, but due to the water color-esque base of the series, the images wind up being really washed out and blend in alittle to much with the background resulting in me almost reading over them. But similar to the story, once the story shifts to the present, the art picks up as well and Nguyen is given his space to shine.
Descender #28 marks an improvement over recent issues, but it’s still not where it needs to be. For a series that started off so strong, it is a bit sad to see it wallow a bit. But it is getting better and I can honestly say I am interested to see how the story ends.