Descender Vol. 2: Machine Moon – A Thrilling Orbit

Earlier this year, I reviewed volume one of Descender, the opening installment of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s sci-fi comic book spacefaring romp…and I loved it. Now, I’m picking up where I left off and diving into Descender: Volume 2: Machine Moon

Tin Stars ended with a reveal that seismically changed the trajectory of the story, so be prepared for spoilers as soon as this sentence is over. The secret robot uprising appeared on the planet Gnish to rescue Tim-21 from certain destruction at the hands of machine-hating Gnish denizens. In Machine Moon, the robots whisk Tim-21 away along with Telsa and Dr. Quon, part of his United Galactic Council entourage. Driller, Bandit, and other UGC companions are left in the machine fighting pits on Gnish. Meanwhile, a mysterious scrapper catches wind of Tim-21’s location and immediately sets out to find him. 

I loved Tin Stars for its wide-reaching story and its heavy themes. Plus, the art is simply top-notch. Those trends continue in Machine Moon, though the second volume slows things down a bit, allowing the reader to enjoy the trail of sci-fi bread crumbs left throughout the panels. 

Machine Moon feels sweeping and cinematic, even when it deals with short conversations between two characters mere inches from one another. Reading this graphic novel feels like watching a science-fiction blockbuster with an astronomical budget. This is thanks to the impressive combination of Lemire and Nguyen, who bring the story to life in front of the reader’s watchful eye. In a way, Machine Moon feels like it’s made for the comics medium. If it was adapted for the screen, I worry it would suffer from well-intentioned but poorly executed CGI and hamfisted storytelling. Thankfully, we’re anchored by the comic book medium here, and everything fits neatly into place. 

The story remains as intriguing as ever. Lemire and Nguyen continue to deal with the fallout of the years-ago Harvester attacks, all the while introducing new characters who have their own stakes, goals, and ambition. But everything still centers around Tim-21 and his usefulness to the various factions searching for the heart of the larger mystery at play. I’m really enjoying the evolution of Captain Telsa (not Tesla, as she’ll quickly reprimand you), who began the story as a no-nonsense hardhead, and is showing signs of warmth and empathy beyond the tough exterior. 

Every character serves a purpose in Machine Moon. And I found myself lingering on the artwork in this installment just to enjoy the vivid, imaginative renderings of aliens, robots, and humanoids alike. This universe is as richly imagined as some of the densest sci-fi epics I’ve read, and it shows through a flawless combination of dialogue, art, and narrative. 

The jump from volume one to volume two only amplified my adoration for Descender. After waiting a year to reread the first book and a four-month break before hopping into the second, I can firmly and confidently say I’m hooked, and those waits will almost certainly shrink a lot. For a quick but deep and wonderful sci-fi story, put Descender on your radar. 

Rating: Descender Volume 2: Machine Moon – 9.0/10

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