REVIEW – Descender #6: Man vs Machine

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Dustin Nguyen

$3.99

Image Comics

If you’ve been reading Jeff Lemire’s and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender, you’re no doubt aware of how great it is.  As the story began, there were times when I thought the book was vaguely reminiscent of some themes from Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  But the back-story of the UGC, the Harvesters, and the robot ban give the book a huge scale and serious consequences that make it unique.  Lemire is telling an entertaining, emotional sci-fi action adventure story while also letting a greater mystery unfold.  And Nguyen’s amazing watercolor art is subdued but intense.

As usual, this month’s issue 6 is great as usual. Can you tell I’m loving this book?  But even more so, we start getting answers to the questions that have been around since issue 1 regarding the Harvesters and TIM-21’s connection to them.  You won’t get any spoilers out of me, but the explanation is both logical and satisfying.

Also, some of the secrets that Dr. Quon has been hiding are revealed.  Under extreme duress and the hands of the Gnishians, Quon spills his guts in a series of flashbacks.  While I doubt anyone found him to be a sympathetic character, given the revelations here it’s hard to feel sorry for Quon, despite what he’s forced to endure.

My only complaint story-wise is a deus ex machina (and that term fits the situation perfectly) event near the issue’s end.  It’s a bit jarring and seems nonsensical at first, but it does set up some new questions for the reader.  Given how excellent this book has been, I am willing to give Lemire the benefit of the doubt and follow him on this new tangent.

Nguyen’s art is perfectly suited for this book.  The character designs are great, and he draws organic life and mechanisms equally well.  But it’s really the colors that shine on this book.  Perhaps “shine” is not the right word, since the pallet is so muted, but that is what makes is so perfect.  This issue really has some great contrast between negative space and lush backgrounds.  The opening sequence on Ostrakon is beautifully rendered to give it a dream-like feel.  The rocky caverns of the underground dig have real texture to them.  I’d love to know what his process is in detail, because if it’s all traditional, he’s even better than I thought.

I love sci-fi and high concepts, but I also like a good story with action and emotion.  Descender has been all that and more.  And while I enjoy writers like Morrison and Ellis, their slow burn approach can be too slow at times.  Lemire and Nguyen are balancing everything perfectly here.

The Verdict:

This is a vital issue in the Descender series.  It gives enough answers to advance the overall story without removing the mystery.  If anything, it adds some new questions.  Barring the “wildcard” near the end of the issue, this is about as good as they come.  If you aren’t reading this series, chase it down, get the trade, don’t miss it.

Descender #6 earns 9/10

Ken Goach

Ken has been collecting comic books over 25 years after a friend gave him THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. He would most likely be a vigilante like Batman if he were rich and knew how to fight.

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