The Student News Site of State University of New York at Brockport

The Stylus

The Stylus

The Stylus

“Descender”: a simulation for humanity’s demise 

“Deep Space 1” by Bob Bello, via: Google Open Source

If you’re a fan of space operas (or just imagining Doctor M. D. as a sci-fi show and now oddly attracted to reading the rest of this review), you should Google “Descender”. Okay, yes, this is an older comic series. “Descender” was published by Image comics from 2015 to 2018 and flew mostly under the radar. This is why it’s fantastic. The series didn’t have to conform to the expectations of mainstream comics, so it had the freedom to tell a raw, sincere story. The subject material is uncomfortable because it depicts, in the most lurid way, the ugly things we do to each other. When I say “we,” I’m talking about humanity, current and past. Why? Because “Descender” is an allegory for genocide and the devastating effects of white supremacy and slavery.  

Now, in the futuristic universe where “Descender” takes place, the existence of robotics and forms of artificial intelligence are illegal. The most lucrative business then, bounty hunting, consists of murdering these people (and they are people) and bringing their bodies to a hub for a paycheck. How repulsive is that? We follow a child android called TIM-21 as he tries to evade bounty hunters. The extremity of these conditions is gaining relevancy with the amount of violence and intolerance in our world today. “Descender” just amps it up to a universal level and has heavily equipped alien spacecraft technology. Also, the artwork for these ships is worth going gaga over. Most beautiful flying machines of death I’ve ever seen.  

But back to why “Descender” is relevant in 2023. Before the attempted genocide, robotics and artificial intelligence were designed as slaves to serve humanity and rebuild the economy. Sound familiar? Just as America abducted thousands of Africans to work plantations in the South, so too did our economy profit off the cheap wages and slave labor. Of course, this didn’t last, neither in history nor in “Descender”. Fearing the numerical superiority of mechanics over humans, the governments felt threatened. It was that same fear of annihilation that made the governments turn on the people who raised their children and commit mass genocide.  

I see your minds working. This is really heavy stuff. The Rwandan genocide. The Holocaust. The racial segregation of apartheid. The institution of systemic white supremacy. Innumerable hate crimes. Where have we been and where are we headed? This is the existential thread our cast of characters must contend with. You have the innocent TIM-21 who only wants to find his family. You have Andy, tortured, conflicting and surviving by pretending to be something he’s not. Telsa, a tough-as-nails soldier making her own way is another exciting character. So is Jin Quon, an unemployed engineer made pathetic by his losses in life. This is a really solid cast to ground you in their experiences and connect with in their realness. 

All of “Descender” is done in such humanizing artwork. Dustin Nguyen sketched, colored, and painted every box in the entire series. This is not your average comic. It asks challenging questions of its audience, as well as its main characters. The visuals, the story, and the conversations want you to feel the visceral pain of what is occurring. However, it also is inviting us into the central motivator of the plot: hope that we can change as a society and be changed as an individual. Give it a shot and see what happens. I can promise you’ll take away something.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Stylus

Your donation will support the student journalists of State University of New York at Brockport. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Jaden Smith, Entertainment and Features Copy Editor
Donate to The Stylus

Comments (0)

All The Stylus Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *