Descender’s”singularity” series continues in issue #15, with a new and interesting twist: a love story. But there’s nothing sentimental or false about this particular love story; it recounts a tragic, wise and emotionally realistic relationship between Andy and his ex-wife, Effie.
Effie and Andy, as the story goes, met as children, both fleeing the Harvesters and huddling along with the rest of humanity on the fringes of the galaxy. Effie is smart, capable, full of attitude and instantly compelling to both Andy and the audience. Stage by stage, a relationship grows between them from childhood friendship to adult love. Andy’s dream is, of course, to go to Gnish and join the “scrappers” — violent ant-robot mercenaries. Far from being something that ends their relationship, Effie pledges herself to Andy and wants to go with him as his wife. Dustin Nguyen’s art in this section reaches new heights, with delicately painted backgrounds and wonderfully cinematic moments between the two characters. For example, they kiss for the first time with hair being blown artfully in the breeze of some alien world, and it’s both cliche and beautiful. Then, as it always seems to do, the story takes a darker turn and Effie meets an ironic and tragic fate.
The dramatic conflict at hand is a familiar one for the pages of Descender: humans vs robots. Both Andy and Effie have strong anti-robot feelings, and of course since they watched their homes and families be wiped out as children by them, this is understandable. But it’s more evident in this issue than others that the metaphor is very potent: people like Andy and Effie hate all robots, but it was only a certain, very specific small sub-class of robots that actually perpetrated the attacks. Both sides are pitted against each other, but really, neither are to blame. The robots the scrappers are hunting are innocent, but they have the misfortune to be made of metal and possess artificial intelligence. Science fiction has always been a potent tool for exploring social issues, but this is a rather creative way to address the war on terror, ethnic intolerance and prejudice. At one point, Effie encourages Andy to take it easy on certain robots that clearly have nothing to do with anti-human activity, but the fate that befalls her challenges both characters’ sense of their humanity and their moral certainty.
Besides the rich thematic material, the visual style of this issue owes a great deal to Firefly and other science fiction texts that mix the visual patina of the western with that of the space opera. (And the adult Effie would be right at home on Serenity with her spiked hair and Kaylee jacket.) Nguyen contrasts wide-open alien vistas with intimate framing of our two main characters, and gives them not one but two romantic full splash pages.
Descender continues to achieve that delicate balance between space opera and intimate human drama, and the next issue of the singularity series will tackle one of the most interesting characters in the universe of this story, namely Driller. It promises to make for fascinating reading.