Descender Volume 3: Singularities
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer: Steve Wands
Review by Anelise Farris
The third volume of Descender (titled Singularities), the sci-fi masterpiece by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, collects issues #12-16. I caught up with Descender this summer, after volumes 1 and 2 were already released, so, wanting to be consistent and read it by the volumes, I have been eagerly waiting for volume 3. And, although I felt that my investment in the characters waned a little in volume 2, volume 3 renewed my faith—big time.
Descender is, like all good sci-fi, more than simply a plot that includes aliens or robots or other worlds; this is a series with a lot of heart and lot of thought. Set in a world in which androids have been banned, Descender centers around a society that is governed by fear of the Other. The majority feel that robots (or “robbies”) can’t be trusted, yet from the beginning of the series and our introduction to Tim-21, a robot who can empathize, Lemire and Nguyen complicate our understanding of who these beings are/can be.
And while volumes 1 and 2 have been gradually building the world of Descender, here, in the third volume, Lemire and Nguyen devote a significant amount of time to delving into the characters’ backstories. Right from the start, readers are positioned 10 years earlier, and although the volume does switch back and forth from the past to the present, the majority of the story is spent in the past. Not only do readers learn more about what caused the war between the humans and the androids, but also we get to know the characters a lot better—my favorite revelation being the story of Telsa.
What I appreciate about Lemire’s storytelling and Nguyen’s art is that each panel feels significant, weighty, even if it’s absent of dialogue. The use of space is brilliant, and, in fact, I think that the most affecting panels are often the simplest. The minimal, ethereal world of Descender is as fascinating as it is convincing, and I want to plaster each one on the walls in my house (though for now I am settling with a picture as my desktop background).
Buy it! If volume 2 had you wanting more character background, Descender, Volume 3: Singularities is exactly what you need. In addition to compelling characterization, Lemire and Nguyen continue to deliver gorgeous art, great storytelling, and ethical inquiry into artificial intelligence.