Review: Descender #14

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Descender cover 14Descender is now half way through its third arc “Singularity” and things are definitely on a slow burn. Compared to the pervious arcs, Descender is taking its time, showing us just who our cast of characters are and the personal motivations guiding them. What I was not expecting was an issue focusing solely on Bandit, Tim-21s companion bot; by far the slowest burn of all the issues so far. For an issue without dialog half the time, it doesn’t miss a beat. This definitely is helped along by Dustin Nguyen’s phenomenal style. While Jeff Lemire has set up a strong story base, this issue goes to show that with the right artist dialog is something that can be sparse while still moving the story forward.

I’ve talked about it with other comics, and maybe this is just the way my brain works, but when I’m able to actually fully envelope myself in a world; that’s when I know its special. At this point in our story, we know that Bandit and Tim-21 are linked, and while their bond has been discussed issue #14 shows just how deep it goes. Yes, they are both linked in the digital sense. Seeing a more “human” bond between the two though was a treat.

Sticking to the theme of the previous issues in this arc, we are taken back through the past, seeing just how things played out from different perspectives. I didn’t realize how much I would feel for Bandit though. He’s the dog robot, and while I can relate to that in the ‘man’s best friend’ sense, reading a comic is different. This is why I think Nguyen’s art is so vital to this comic. His style has always been important bringing a sense of scale to scenes that can be hard to match. Especially because he’s painting each scene, which goes to show just how talented this man is.

Watching Bandit live out his days in the long dead colony was heartbreaking. Seeing the colony’s downfall through Bandit’s eyes is adorably tragic. I’ve been curious about Bandit’s motivations sense the beginning. He may be a dogbot but he’s still quite aware, especially when it comes to loyalty. Bandit knows he’s alone, and everything he came to know is gone, except Tim-21. It’s the connection they have though that’s the focus in this issue. Which is why seeing just how Tim-21 awoke was even more surprising. In his many years on the colony Bandit does what his programmed to do, be a dog. It just so happens that his programming leads to Tim-21’s awaking. Truly a boys’ best friend. I won’t spoil the scene here, it’s pretty darn cute though.

While the scenes might not the be the most epic Nguyen has done, it’s how he presents the flow of things that’s important. This is why one can get such a sense of feeling from each frame. Dirishu-6 is a cold dead mining colony, and it shows. Following Bandit through his 10yr journey on the colony was appropriately paced, showing that even this little robot has some heart. I know it’s weird to talk about “heart” for a robot, but isn’t’ that what this whole comic is a commentary on. How do we think of the technology that we live within our day to day? What reflection does it cast back at us, and is a machine just cold dead metal that will always remain artificial?

When it comes to Bandit, just like Tim-21, I believe the answers can be found by looking at just how closely these two are linked. Not only the link between Bandit and Tim-21, but the third party, Andy. This reunion is definitely on the way, and now that Andy has finally flipped the switch for this link between the two, it seems all three will be coming together soon. First, they just have to get past every obstacle that stands in their way as well as the massive distance between them.

The ending for this comic is crucial in showing this link. It’s obvious this link is important, but it brings it back to the matter of heart when the hard cut to Tim-21s battle with Tim-22 happens. Something seems to happen in Tim-21, a certain resolve reappears. Tim-21 is nothing but gentle/loving. Yet, we also know that if Tim-21 needs to defend himself he will, even if he doesn’t like it. In the moment though when the connection between dog and boy happens, a certain resolve seems to be set in place. It didn’t seem like Tim-21 had given up in his fight with Tim-22 but now that he knows Bandit is still out there, it seems the tables are about to turn. Tim-21 has purpose again.

Lemire has set up a fantastic story, possibly my favorite of his to date, letting Nguyen take the reins on this one though was a great move. It didn’t slow anything down and revealed things that hadn’t quite been made clear. Now it’s obvious just how important Bandit is and why his sticking around. He’s not just some cute prop to relieve stressful moments. Things are about to change, and in a big way, even if we don’t get their right away. I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here, and possibly seeing if Tim-21 will realize Andy is alive, because of the link that has been reestablished. Whatever happens, it looks like it’s going to be a wild ride.

Descender can be found in digital form or run to your local comic shop!

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