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Comic Book / Descender

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Descender is a Space Opera comic book about a young boy robot, Tim-21, who awakens from ten years of sleep mode to find a galaxy vastly changed. Enormous robots appeared over several key planets one day, making no communications before unleashing devastating attacks. In a day, billions were killed and the UGC (United Galactic Council), a species-spanning government body, was left weakened. Violence and strife rose up and as one, organics turned against robots, leading to vast cullings driven by fear.

No one knows where the giant robots, given the name Harvesters came from. But as a small UGC group discovers, Tim-21 just might hold the key to finding out. Various factions collide to find, control, or kill Tim, just as many wish to use the threat of the Harvesters to gain powers themselves. What follows is a story that is by turns heart-warming, heart-breaking, thrilling, frightening, and humorous as Tim-21 struggles to find a sense of meaning and make a life for himself in a galaxy that has decided robots are undeserving of both. Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, Descender's first issue was published in 2015 by Image Comics.


After a thirty two issue run, a direct sequel, Ascender, was announced in the final pages of Descender's conclusion.

Descender has examples of:

  • Action Girl: Captain Telsa is a well-trained and aggressive UGC officer who takes the initial mission to find Tim as a way of proving her worth to herself and her father.
    • Queen Between, a cyborg (who are seen as freaks by both organics and robots) is leader of The Between (as the name indicates) and not bad in a fight.'
  • The Ageless: Being a robot, Tim retains the look of a young boy over ten years since his creation and activation.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Telsa has been growing more and more attached to Tim as the series progresses, but refuses to acknowledge this and holds her ground when people call her out on it. When she reunites with Tim on Mata, she admits that she missed him while hugging him.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Andy seeing Tim for the first time in years sends him immediately running to find a way to get to him.
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  • Big Damn Heroes: Tim-21 arrives just in time as Tim-22 is about to kill off Tesla.
  • Big "NO!": Both Psius and Tim-21 drop one of these when the Gnishians fire their superweapon.
  • Catchphrase: Driller tends to default to violence very quickly, with a shout of "Driller a killer! Driller a real killer!" It sees use in multiple ways from a rallying cry, to a threat, or a victory shout, to an admission of guilt.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Dr. Quon zig-zags between helping Telsa and Tim and helping whoever else seems to be in control of their fate (the Gnishians, the Hardwire, the UGC) at the drop of a hat. In fact, he only became a famous roboticist by backstabbing his mentor Dr. Soloman and stealing his research years earlier.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Issues 12 to 16 focuses on the backstories of one character per issue:
    • Issue 12: Tim-22.
    • Issue 13: Telsa.
    • Issue 14: Bandit.
    • Issue 15: Andy and Effie/Queen Between.
    • Issue 16: Driller.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: It takes quite a while, but Telsa eventually begins to reveal genuine affection for others.
  • Doing In the Wizard: An afterlife for robots? Nah, it's actually a secret server that contains backup memories of deceased artificial intelligence.
  • Dramatic Irony: At one point, Captain Telsa is remarking what a good job Tim-21 did getting rid of Tim-22 not knowing who she was really talking to.
  • Earth That Was: The humans from Sampson are descendants of the colonists from "Old Earth" in the UGC's planet listings.
  • Evil Luddite: The Gnishians, who are fanatical in their desire to wipe out all robots.
  • Fiery Redhead: Telsa is quick to anger when she feels others are interfering with her mission and isn't afraid to use violence to get her way.
  • Final Battle: After tracking Tim-21 to Mata the UGC and the Hardwire each mass all of their remaining forces in orbit. It gets even more out of hand with the arrival of the Gnishians and the Harvesters.
  • Foreshadowing: The "Images of Tomorrow" variant cover for Issue #22 features a little girl riding a fantasy creature. While initially appearing to be a brief Out-of-Genre Experience, it ultimately foreshadows the Genre Shift of the series from science fiction to science fantasy in between Descender and Ascender.
  • Genre Shift: What starts off as a somewhat hard Science Fiction story eventually balloons into a Science Fantasy epic. This becomes more apparent in the teaser for Ascender, which explains that robotkind's rapture heralded the return of magic to the universe.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Tim-22 is quite jealous of 21 living with a loving family unlike him, whose owner was a grouchy old man who regularly abused him.
  • Hand Blast: The Tim series have built in plasma emitters in their palms that are quite powerful but require a recharge time between each shot.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: It's heavily implied that Tim-22's owner was coming around to treating him better right before the Harvesters start their attack.
  • Heel Realization: Andy has grown up to become a Scrapper thanks to his hatred of robots brought about by the death of his family. After ten years of doing this (mostly for fun, we might add), the sight of Tim for the first time in years snaps Andy back to his senses and makes him realize how hypocritical he's been in his quest to kill robots.
  • Internal Homage: The cover for issue 23 homages the cover of issue 1, but with Tim-22 instead of Tim-21.
  • It Can Think: The robots throughout the series show variety of capability to feel and think for themselves, but the Tim series is shown to be quite the revolution in terms of this. While their purposes vary between servitude and companionship, a consistent motif is their ability to emotionally and intelligently adapt and evolve based on their experiences.
  • Jet Pack: The Tim series have built in jet boots that are voice-activated.
  • Killed Off for Real: After many fake-outs, Tim-22 is finally killed off by by Tim-21 decapitating him and then Tesla stomping on his head.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Tullis tells Andy to tell Telsa that he always saw her as his own daughter before pulling off his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Long List: When Blugger hears the ship he's in doesn't have a name, he quickly offers up several. The scene is framed as though we're joining him in the middle.
    Blugger: —Scrap Dog!...No wait, I think there's already at least three other ships called the scrap dog. How about? War Fang? Comet Crusher? Death Flower? Battle Banshee? The Imperial Scorpion? Space Dagger?
  • A Million Is a Statistic: We're told that millions of people died on several worlds during the Harvester attacks. After the second Harvester attack at the end of the series, we see the population figures for the UGC core worlds (many of them in the billions) scratched out and replaced with much smaller numbers (a few hundred thousand at most).
  • Poor Communication Kills: On a galactic scale. The Harvester attacks were meant as a warning from the Descenders to the organic races of the galaxy to treat their robots with kindness and empathy, rather than servants and simple machines. However, they never actually told anyone this warning in any meaningful way. So, as far as the UGC races knew, they had suffered an unprovoked attack by an unidentified race of giant machines, leading to a decade-long purge of robots across civilized space. Which, in turn, leads the Descenders to conclude that humanity and the other species are hopeless, and prepare to wipe them out completely.
  • The Power of Love: Tim-21's life, surrounded by people who love and want to protect him, is what convinces the Descenders to give humanity a second chance. Unfortunately, the Gnishes fire on their Harvester and completely dissolves whatever revelation they've had.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Descender ends with the titular race of mysterious beings deciding to rapture all of machinekind out of the universe, including Tim. However, the series truly ends with a Time Skip to another ten years later, where Andy has fathered a daughter and it is revealed she will partake on her own quest to find Tim.
  • Shout-Out:
    • It's really easy to notice that this series about an artificially intelligent robot boy searching for his missing, human family with an equally robotic pet bears some similarities to A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Thankfully, this time both the mother and the brother are kind to the boy.
    • Driller encounters and befriends a small, elderly frog-like alien who is eventually revealed to have magical powers when he ends up in the swamps of a planetoid. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
  • Spotting the Thread: Tullis notices that Driller becomes quieter when they meet Andy, and makes the connection, though he doesn't understand its cause.
    • This is also how Andy is able to figure out how a remote colony has a functioning greenhouse without irrigation piping or fertilization distributors-they're using robots.
  • Third-Person Person: Several older robots seem to function this way, such as Driller and his old friend Scoops, who both are named for what they do.
  • Twin Switch: Tim-22 switches places with Tim-21 at the end of the third arc.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: "Well Done Daughter" Lady, really. In spite of Telsa's insistence that her choices are her own, everyone can see that she's doing it to earn her father's approval.
  • Wham Shot: The red-haired robot hunter is revealed to be a grown up Andy.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the themes of the series. The Tim series is seen as the answer to this question due to its very human-like ability to emotionally adapt, but even then, people like Telsa are quick to respond with telling Tim-21 to tone down his emotion settings.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": The 'Robot Culls'. Later explicitly called out by Dr. Solomon.
  • You Killed My Father: Andy's vendetta against robots stems from the fact that the Harvester's arrival resulted in his mother's death. He wastes no time blasting Driller out the airlock when the robot repentantly confesses that he's responsible for the gas leak that killed Andy's mom.

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