Family in Descender 29

by Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family…

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

How do you define “family?” The answer to this may differ drastically depending on a number of factors, but as subjective as the idea is, many social and medical science disciplines use “family” as a basic unit of study. A UNESCO report claims family to be “a kinship unit and that even when its members do not share a common household, the unit may exist as a social reality.” That strikes me an appropriately broad definition, but could we include robots in it? Descender 29 returns to the “present” after three issues chronicling the first interactions with the eponymous machines which may have created organic life in this universe to a galaxy on fire, but despite the huge plot pieces moving here, the development and dissolution of family units takes center stage. Continue reading

Descender 23: Discussion

by Ryan Desaulniers and Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ryan D: After last issue‘s cliffhanger, the audience wondered whether or not the self-serving Quon would risk his neck by leaving the relative safety of the ship into the deep waters in which Captain Telsa currently languished, lifelessly. Well, he did, and the sequence of Quon retrieving Telsa looks beautiful. Continue reading

Descender 22 and the Art of the Opening

by Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The curtains rise in Descender 22 on a stage which is nearly bare.

The only indication in the first panel that the comic has begun is the indication of the location, the planet Mata. A gentle blue irises on the right-hand side of the panel, and as your eye travels down the page, it’s difficult to tell that there even are panels. A fish glides into view, adding context to the first panel, then the next panel brings a flurry of fish and introduces an element of direction and movement, down and to the right. The gutters between the panels become more distinct here, before artist Dustin Nguyen, in the last image of the page, gives us the gloved hand, bare wrist, and a touch of the signature red of Telsa’s hair. The reader barely has time to think “oh shit!” before the page turn smashes us into a two-page spread of Telsa, floating and limp, wrapped in a hard layer of bubbles, hopeless. Continue reading

Descender 18

descender-18Today, Spencer and Ryan D. are discussing Descender 18, originally released January 18th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: In Descender‘s earliest issues, Tim-21 was easily its star attraction. That’s not to say I didn’t love everything else the series had to offer; it’s just that the sweet, adorable, largely helpless companion bot instantly captured my heart. Throughout their third and fourth arcs, though, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have doubled-down on fleshing out the rest of their cast, allowing them to keep pace with Tim’s massive appeal. Descender 18 feels like the culmination of this work, yet throws in an ironic twist; the series distances itself from Tim-21 just as he becomes more important than ever to its central mythology. Continue reading

Descender 16

descender-16

Today, Ryan D. and Spencer are discussing Descender 16, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan D: Descender 16 drops the reader directly into the past, without even stopping to say hello to the cast from last issue’s focus on Andy and Effie/Queen Between. From the cover and the lovely introductory spread, it is clear right away that it is now Driller’s turn to get the spotlight treatment. As soon as we see the two robots being dropped from orbit into the Dirishu Mining Colony, it became very clear to me where this issue was heading: we met Driller alone on the planet, so something needs to take us from Driller having companionship to its solitary, human-hating life. Though the arc seemed fairly obvious, it was still a treat to see this robot get some well-deserved further characterization, not to mention the big reveal at the end. Continue reading

Descender 15

descender-15

Today, Spencer and Ryan D. are discussing Descender 15, originally released September 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The third arc of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender is called “Singularities,” and it’s an appropriate title. The progression of the narrative has slowed to a crawl as, instead, each issue gets drawn into the orbit of a single character, exploring the way the ten years since the Harvesters’ attack have shaped them into the person they are today. Issue 15 focuses on Effie (a.k.a. Queen Between), the ex-wife of Tim-21’s former owner, Andy Tavers. Not only do Lemire and Nguyen deftly flesh out the past of a character who, up until now, had been a bit player, but they pack a heartbreakingly comprehensive look at a ten-year-long relationship into a scant 23 pages. Continue reading

Descender 10

Alternating Currents: Descender 10, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Descender 10, originally released February 10th, 2016.

Drew: While I can appreciate its visual wizardry, I’ve always been baffled at the morality of The Matrix. Never mind the half-baked philosophy of “there is no spoon” or the stoner profundity of wondering whether reality really is an illusion, it’s the vilification of the robots that really confuses me. Objectively, the humans are the bad guys, the fickle creators who try to destroy the sentient life they’ve created. The robots, on the other hand, keep the humans alive and comfortable, albeit in an oddly complex simulation. For all of the explicit Christ imagery surrounding Neo, he represents the robots’ Antichrist, a being sent by the creator(s) to end life as they know it. Can we blame the robots for wanting to avoid that?

Descender‘s inversion of the morality of The Matrix hooked me from the start. Instead of relying on our knee-jerk identification with the human characters, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have intentionally played against our expectations. Tim-21’s humanity is the core of this series (even as they highlight how odd it is), while the humans are often depicted as racist, unscrupulous, or hapless beings driven by fear and distrust. This challenges our notions of humanity and morality in ways that The Matrix never bothers to. Of course, Lemire and Nguyen’s desire to thwart our expectations finds them reversing The Matrix yet again, as Tim-21 is revealed to be the robots’ own version of The One. Continue reading

Descender 9

descender 9

Today, Spencer and Ryan D. are discussing Descender 9, originally released January 13th, 2016.

Spencer: Despite all the differences between the numerous species of aliens that exist within the world of Descender, they’re united by one fact: they’re not robots. The war between robots and non-robots has been the conflict at the core of Descender since its genesis, but there’s one character who doesn’t clearly fall on either side of that conflict: Tim-21. As far back as the first issue we’ve noticed how Tim-21 was designed to appear as human as possible, but in Descender 9 Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen finally dig into how Tim-21’s alliances with both sides of the conflict make him feel. Continue reading

Descender 8

descender 8

Today, Ryan D. and Spencer are discussing Descender 8, originally released December 16th, 2015.

Ryan D: While comics began to thrive on the genres of fantasy and horror for numerous reasons such as accessibility, affordability, and an allowance for the niche and pulp, I would hazard that there are so many big, bold new universes being constructed in comics right now because the medium itself lends itself to the creation of new worlds. Comics take the visual aspect of realized fantastical realms of television or film and couple that with the liberty of imagination bestowed by novels. In eight issues, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have built a far-reaching and seamless science fiction universe in a state of flux, carefully showing only what the reader needs to see, allowing for plenty of wiggle room and personal imaginative exploration. Continue reading

Descender 1

descender 1

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Descender 1, originally released March 4th, 2015.

Spencer: Descender is a title that piqued my interest the moment it was announced. With creators like Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen at the helm it’s easy to see why, but what actually caught my attention was its premise; Descender follows a child robot named Tim-21 as he attempts to survive in a world out to annihilate all artificial life. Just the synopsis alone tugs at my heartstrings, but it’s Nguyen’s adorable design for Tim-21 that seals the emotional deal; I bonded with this kid the moment I laid eyes on him. This holds true for the rest of the issue, as well; Lemire’s introduced some fun concepts and all the trappings of a compelling sci-fi universe, but it’s Nguyen’s unique, stunning art that makes this universe a place worth visiting. Continue reading