By Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Tim is not a real boy, Tim is not a real boy, Tim is not a real boy. That’s the inner mantra one will likely find themselves chanting as they work their way through Lemire and Nguyen’s subverted Pinocchio tale, Descender because this little companion bot that could, he’s all too real. Stunning, eloquent and, most importantly, wistfully poignant, the second issue of the near universally praised Descender proves to be as beguiling as its debut.
Lemire and Nguyen just make you care so damn much, it’s almost unbelievable. While the last issue was all about the wonder and awe of this new universe of possibilities, filled with an alien menagerie of robotics and species, this issue takes aim solely at your heart as it follows a harrowing pursuit of everyone’s favorite robotic boy and his dog tandem, and flashbacks to his…um…childhood? Beginning in media res this issue unfolds into a watercolor tapestry of dual narratives, Iron Man-reminiscent blasts, a pseudo Transformer, and touching moment after touching moment. Seriously, even the coldest cockles of your dead, black heart should be lit aflame after reading “M-mommy?!”
The sprawling scope of the first issue is narrowed to a laser point by Lemire this go round and the layered scripting here is deeply affecting in its execution. The cavernous chase combined with the flashbacks reinforces the idea of echoes reverberating through time making for a wistful pace, but one not devoid of tension. Lemire’s dialogue is charming as hell, allowing Tim to utter these Little Nemo-like exclamations which fully root him as an innocent and recognizable child, as well as the occasional tidbit to remind you of his advanced technological state. It’s actually pretty perfectly balanced and Lemire this issue allows us to witness some of that transformation of Tim from cognizant automaton to accepted family member, all the while enforcing the immediate threat of immediate destruction. Tim is the main draw to the book and keeping the focus solely on him in this sophomore outing was a wise move and one no doubt intended to increase the blow of even more heartache down the line.
Once again, Nguyen ensures Descender looks like nothing else out there. Soft pencils married with fluid color blends and evocative layouts result in this signature ethereal feel that matches as much as it sets the tone. The sepia flashbacks, saying washed out would actually be redundant considering the water-color application found throughout, are gorgeous examples of comic storytelling that capture the dream-like nature of this particular robot’s reboot uploading; varied fragments of overlapping data that highlight the most human of moments in his short life thus far. The pentagonal effect of these moments outside of Tim’s head are particularly striking, especially when contrasted with the multitude of roughly edged panels Nguyen sprinkles throughout the issue. It’s not all surreal flights of sentimentality either, the present day threat is rife with intensity and palpable trepidation. There are no less than three moments where you should find yourself staring at a page saying “…wow.”
To the surprise of no one, Descender #1 wasn’t a fluke and this follow-up delivers on virtually every front. Putting the entire issue’s concentration on just Tim (and of course, Bandit) and keeping the larger universe on the back-burner assures that this particular story Lemire and Nguyen are telling is going to massive, while bleeding the audience dry of compassion for this boy who is not actually a boy. With a cliffhanger that would make even BKV say, “Come on!” this series is asserting itself as the absolute must-read every month. Charming, thrilling and truly breathtaking, Descender #2 is a pleasure to get lost in.