descender-coverThe new sci-fi series Descender is set in a shiny, Star Trek-like future of technology, aliens, and androids. Dr. Jin Quon, once revered as the universe’s “father of robotics”, has fallen on hard times. Ten years prior, over half a dozen gigantic robots appeared from nowhere and attacked, killing hundreds of millions of people, before vanishing back to wherever they came from. These robots (dubbed “Harvesters”) were larger than planets, had never been seen before, and haven’t been seen since. In fear and fury, the galaxy’s surviving humans and aliens went on a killing spree, destroying every robot they could find in a kind of robo-genocide, despite their innocence for the Harvesters’ crimes. Understandably, in such a climate, people like Dr. Quon became very unwelcome. But as our story begins, Quon is visited in his tumbledown home by the cold, shrewd Captain Telsa and her stoic bodyguard Mr. Tullis. They have come to recruit the awkward scientist for a mission to retrieve one of the galaxy’s last remaining helper robots. Government scientists think they have found common programming between this survivor and the Harvesters, and want to see if they can find information that would protect the galaxy from future attacks.

The survivor is Tim-21, an empathetic robot designed to look like a pre-teen boy, and created to be a surrogate family member for human colonists. He powers up after 10 years asleep on a distant mining colony, finds his “mother” and “brother” missing/dead, and reads up on the horrible events that took place during his years of inactivity. He revives a yappy robot dog and an aggressive, human-hating industrial robot named Driller, but soon they find themselves pursued by bounty hunters out to kill robots for cash and must flee or defend themselves. Tim-21 is scared, but trusting when they are rescued by Telsa and Quon, who keep their murky motives hidden. The robots are by no means saved, and both mercenaries and robot-hating mobs remain in pursuit.

The book is a satisfactory sci-fi action story with some philosophical themes about war, fear, and the place that artificial life might have with their organic creators—until the end. In the final chapter of the volume, one character reveals secrets that literally made my jaw drop, turns everyone’s understanding of this world upside down, and gives the reader a whole new set of philosophical questions to ask themselves. Before reading this twist, I would’ve found this book good but forgettable. But now I am very interested to read volume 2, to see what these revelations mean.

Descender has distinctive watercolor-inspired art by Dustin Nguyen, which makes for more impressionistic depictions of characters and action. I found this often a great thing for grand vistas, but occasionally frustrating when it came to detailed work, like the expressions on characters’ faces.

Descender is appropriate for teens, with a few graphic scenes of violence towards both living creatures and robots. That one of the robots has the physical appearance of a 10-year old boy makes it a little more disturbing. The themes are meant for those who want to ponder a bit about science and society.

Descender, vol 1: Tin Stars
by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dustin Nguyen
ISBN: 9781632154262
Image Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 16+

  • Jake Sexton

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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