By Ben Snyder
Descender has come a very far ways from where it started. At first, the series was quiet, beautiful, almost meditative on the existence of A.I and the repercussions of its abuse. For a while I thought that’s how the story would stay, but as the story unfolded it was clear that Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen were telling a sprawling and expansive space epic something on a massive scale. While it hasn’t really hit the highs its creators have set out for it, Descender has been a success for most of its issue. Descender #31 is no exception, providing a bombastic and explosive entry prior to the series finale. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s good enough.
I understand that everyone is participating in this huge battle between the remnants of the UGC and the Hardwire, but this chapter struck me as incredibly loud with every character seemingly screaming at each other for no particular reason. There was so much noise that when characters such as Andy and Telsa were discussing Tim’s fate, it seemed out of place. It was also weird watching Dr. Solomon and his creation were just watching this battle unfold and not doing anything. I know Solomon has been a passive character up to this point but you’d think he’d feel a need to take a side and do something in this fight.
The inclusion of magic also felt incredibly out of place. Mizerd’s been a fun character so far, but seeing him cast teleportation magic just felt really weird. Like why hasn’t he done this before and if magic is real, how has literally no one else seen, heard, or mentioned it so far. You’d think someone would have at least brought it up vaguely before right?
Not all is bad in this chapter though, as Telsa’s decision to let Tim go and her conversation with Andy underscored both character’s incredible growth this entire series. Telsa and Andy started this series as similar characters just fighting for opposite causes. Telsa was a bulldog for the UGC and Andy was a scrapper, both hated robots and almost everyone else. But due to both of their experiences, specifically Andy reuniting with Effie, they have grown incredibly. Reading Telsa betray her father and the UGC for the sake of Tim was really sweet and it inspired hope that maybe Andy, Effie, and Tim could form a weird family of some sorts. Of course, this was only moments later ripped away with the reintroduction of the true Harvesters and Descenders.
Not much more can be said about Dustin Nguyen’s art in this series. It has been consistently a high point and a reason to read the series by itself. His watercolors are adept at expressing a general mood for the scenes particularly when he is given the opportunity to draw space. In the beginning of the series he focused a lot on black and white, emphasizing the loneliness of Tim, but as the series has grown and become more energetic, he began infusing purples and light blues to convey a lot of kinetic energy. And Nguyen draws a lot of pretty pages such as Tim sharing his memories with the Descenders. These two pages are simply beautiful. While they may look a bit odd in relation to the rest of the chapter, it’s not totally jarring.
Descender as a series has come along way from its inception. Lemire’s story has shifted into something totally unexpected and Nguyen’s art has grown in ways I thought were impossible. Descender #31 is far from perfect but it does enough to excite prior to the series finale and it conveys just how much growth took place in this book.