Descender continues to be one of the best sci-fi books on the shelves, with the big, beating heart of a family adventure. As Andy continues to hunt Tim-21, he finds himself a step behind them on Gnish, and witnesses a political upheaval. Afterwars, he crosses paths with a few old friends (a real pal and a real killer). Meanwhile, Tims-21 and -22 head into the unknown with their captors.
The plot of Descender was a hook in the first issue. There were giant space gods, there was an adorable robot boy with an adorable robot dog. It had it all. And then it went and got tragic on us, and I cannot possibly stop reading it. This is a book that started with a large portion of the population getting decimated, but the real meat of the story is watching Dr. Quon and Tim-21 lose everything they had and still keep soldiering on. They sail seas that batter them at every turn, whether they are caused by their own actions (Dr. Quon) or by the cruel fate of being a boy who can never grow up, and they still keep going. There’s a quiet beauty and nobility in their story, especially with the style of art on the book, and it’s enthralling every time it comes out.
Dustin Nguyen’s artwork on Descender is what truly sets it apart for me. If it were drawn and colored in what would be somewhat industry standard, it would run the risk of just looking like Cyberforce or Doom 2099. With Nguyen’s textured, pastel-tone watercolors, the book has a delicacy that speaks to Tim-21’s childlike nature, as well as giving the book its own sort of identity as a legendary scroll from the future. It walks that line brilliantly, and it gives such weight to even casual conversations that this book feels like it’s saying something—a feeling you don’t get often enough from major comics these days.
Lemire’s scripting is as breezy as ever. It seems like he is able to form these complete characters in his head and just set them at talking to each other, and he transcribes what happens. There’s a naturalism to every line that Lemire writes that shines through everything he works on. The downside is that sometimes those conversations go on a shade too long, and we get an issue like this one, where there were memorable moments and definite bomb drops to lead to “Oh shit, what’s going to happen??” reactions, but it felt like an issue of treading water. We’re waiting for people to get to the places they need to be, and sometimes it’s gripping and emotional, other times it feels like we’re collectively checking our watches, waiting for our ship to dock.
If you’re looking for a sci-fi book to give you the rollicking adventure feeling of the original Star Wars, Descender should be your first choice. Pick up the trade, seek out the back issues, get caught up. Live this wonderful space fable that Lemire and Nguyen deliver like a gift, and enjoy every minute of it.
Descender #9 Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Dustin Nguyen Letterer & Designer: Steve Wands Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 1/13/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital