Story: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer: Steve Wands
What They Say:
“ORBITAL MECHANICS,” Part Three Driller’s terrible secret is revealed to Andy, and their uneasy alliance is shattered. Meanwhile, across the galaxy, Tim-21, Quon, and Telsa make their way to the ocean planet of Mata where the secrets of The Harvesters may finally be revealed!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Descender hits the halfway mark of the Orbital Mechanics arc and it continues to be one that for many fans gets the series back on track with the larger story. I’m finding it thoroughly exciting to be sure but a good part of the reason comes from the standalone issues that we got which fleshed out many of the characters that are now resulting in new paths for them to take. Lemire and Nguyen definitely did some great work in those issues and the payoff is hitting more now with the way the cast dynamics play out as the larger threats are starting to show themselves more. At the same time you feel like everything is so fluid that it’s hard to tell who you really should trust and just how quickly enemies might become friends when faced with a greater threat.
With so many different things going on in different places, this issue tackles several of them but not all of them. Most intriguing is right from the start as TIM-21 is brought back to awareness and learns that he was kept behind with TIM-22 taking his spot with his friends, unbeknownst to them. What Psius wants is definitely intriguing however as TIM-21’s downtime had him exchanging a huge amount of data with some unknown source, which in the dream vision that TIM-21 has is essentially a Harvester. We know there’s something about TIM-21 that separates him from the others and this doesn’t answer anything but makes it all the more tantalizing. And it’s good to have TIM-21’s reactions to everything as it helps to reinforce his personality a bit more in contrast to seeing how TIM-22 is not really pulling it off while with Telsa and Quon but is covering it well enough based on what he “did” to his opponent.
TIM-22 is definitely getting what he needs for Psius through this, however, but you also wonder if there’s a fake out with it. Telsa’s badgering of Quon as to where they’re going to find Solomon feels like he’s just making something up (a whole Dantooine moment for me) which TIM-22 reports back to Psius, along with what he learned from Telsa about the UGH now aware of where machinekind has set up and that an attack is likely coming. Psius is definitely looking to exact some revenge and have his big moment to change the course of history, and cement his position even more, so it’s no surprise that he wants to have that encounter and show the flesh based lifeforms out there that they will not be easy to deal with any longer.
The most heart rending aspect of this issue is the follow-up to Driller’s standalone story that showcased his past. He’s been feeling guilty about what he’s done for ages, noting that he is a killer, and he’s ready to simply sacrifice himself now to atone for it by going out the airlock. This panics everyone else until he reveals what he did back when Andy was a kid and how it resulted in his mother’s death. There’s no asking for forgiveness or absolution here, that may still be outside of what Driller can do, but I like how it unfolds – as much as one can like it – because it forces Andy to deal with it in very stark terms. While there may be a twist in this to come what we do get here has a final feeling about it and it’s not surprising to see Andy make the choice many would view as the easy one by pushing the button and destroying Driller. Considering his arc from the standalone book and elsewhere as to how his life went after the Harvesters first came, he’s on a thin edge in how he deals with machinekind.
Descender never stopped firing on all cylinders for me, even when it devoted an installment to my favorite robodog, but it’s ramping up hard and strong for what’s to come next. Lemire is delivering a really solid story with different elements in different locations but I have a hard time imagining that it would work anywhere near as well without Dustin Nguyen. Lemire packs a lot of dialogue and story elements into each issue and I feel like I never talk about Nguyen’s artwork enough but I really love the expressiveness that comes through with the minimal approach in some pages, such as Telsa’s time against white backgrounds made starker by the color work for her hair and a few other elements. When it shifts to more detailed and complicated scenes the layouts are just fantastic and cinematic as they draw you in. I love his work in general but this series is just on a whole other level in how he’s delivering with it, issue to issue.
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Image Comics via ComiXology
Release Date: February 22nd, 2017