Descender returns this month, and as much as I dug this issue like I’ve dug the whole series so far, this issue felt a little like ground retread, and felt a little bit on the short side. The issue follows only Andy and his bounty hunter pal, Blugger, as they visit a haunted planet and make a daring getaway. Meanwhile, the issue is structured the same way as the Tim-21 background issue, with each facing page for much of the issue being a sepia-toned watercolor.
This month’s Descender feels like a letdown from Lemire in terms of writing—it’s structure is cribbed from an issue of his from less than six months ago, and it basically only establishes information that we already knew. It’s interesting to see the “other side of the mirror” approach he’s taking, in terms of comparing and contrasting Andy’s story with Tim’s, but there’s only one emotional beat that’s a real surprise, and it’s in the flashbacks.
The question of necessity popped up a lot for me in this issue—the last issue built Andy up so strongly before the reveal that, while I don’t necessarily mind, this issue, it would have felt more appropriate to either leave it until the end of the arc, where we have more time to see what Andy has become before we see what made him that way, or to not include the issue at all. Aside from that, the issue also felt shorter than normal. Part of that may be the inclusion of two separate previews for other books in the back, but it is what it is. Having said all that, the sequences are all paced out extremely well, and Lemire’s dialogue is as natural and fluid as always, betraying the characters’ emotion with simplicity.
Nguyen’s artwork, on the other hand, is as strong as it ever has been. The haunted planet Andy and Blugger visit is inhabited with spiritual aliens, and their design is both simple and ethereal; Blugger’s design is horrifying and Hutt-like, but remains a standout in the series. It makes it even more engrossing to see Nguyen contrast Blugger with the clean lines of Tim, who looks like something out of a delightful Pixar short. Lemire and Nguyen let the book take some structural risks in terms of page composition in this issue as well, and those pay off really nicely by giving the reader a concomitant sense of disorientation with Andy and Blugger.
If you’re not already reading Descender, you’re missing the only sci-fi that could have competed with Star Wars this month. It’s a tale of boys grown up wrong, and it’ll break your heart, but it’ll be a gorgeous heartbreak. This book is like watching a star slowly die, and I mean that in the best, most Malickian/Tree of Life sense—it reminds you that innocence only means something when you lose it.
Descender #8 Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Dustin Nguyen Letterer & Designer: Steve Wands Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/16/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital