Monday, January 30, 2017

REVIEW: DESCENDER VOLUME 2: MACHINE MOON

Welcome to the Machine Moon...

INTRODUCTION 
When I turned the last page of DESCENDER VOLUME 1: TIN STARS, I was left utterly stunned and wanting more of this brilliant science fiction universe. The world was intriguing and vast. The characters were edgy and unique. The plot evolved methodically, becoming more and more complex as the volume went on. This had just about everything I could ever want from a piece of graphic fiction including beautiful water-color inspired artwork.  I don't know why it took me so long to dive into the series's second volume, but now I've finally rejoined Tim-21 on his adventure.

HOW I RATED IT 
4/5 It doesn't get everything 100% right, but this second installment definitely manages to deliver on some quality science fiction fun. While I would have liked to see some better character management and a more exciting plot, this was still a very worthy entry into the series that seems to be setting up some bigger and more interesting things.

CHARACTERS
Tim-21 doesn't like leaving
men behind
The cast is back and larger than ever, however not all of them are necessarily handled as well as they could be. Three of them are sidelined for most of the issue though the fact that they were left behind does come up in conversation. Although none of them are really main or particularly vital characters, I was still bummed that they just kind of got ignored. Their exclusion does make room for some new players to step in, however, one of them being none other than Andy, the boy that Tim-21 belonged to. He's all grown up now and has a curious liking for hunting down and exterminating robots of all kinds. He's grown into quite a viscous bounty hunter and I liked that I was left to wonder at what events led him down this path. While we do see some flashbacks of his childhood that help flesh out his character, his deeper, darker motivations remain a mystery. I'm excited to see where this character is taken and am optimistic that he'll play a big part in the next volume. Partnering with him is actually an antagonist briefly seen in the very beginning of the first volume. I found it interesting that they brought him back into the story given how inconsequential he initially seemed and he turned out to be a pretty great addition to be honest. 

The main focus is still on Tim-21, Dr. Quon, and Telsa. They are joined by some new "friends," namely Tim-22, and the leader of the robot resistance who Tim-22 refers to as his father. Seeing both the Tim units together was pretty fun and I loved how different they both turned out to be in spite of them being the exact same model. It seems that nurture makes the ultimate difference to his particular type of robot. Quon and Telsa's earlier truce seems pretty shattered in light of recent revelations about him. Telsa finds herself feeling like the only sane one in the group as she tries to devise a way to get them all out of their current situation. Although there isn't much more revealed about the planet-sized robots that may return one day, there are some good interpersonal dynamics that get explored which served to put the story's quiet time to good use. There's also some deeper questions that get asked about the nature of Tim-21's dreams 

WORLD/SETTING 
The world of DESCENDER is every bit as memorable as when I last left it. The conflict between man and machine rages fiercer than ever and there are even a few who find themselves in a freakish in-between. The universe is large and there are some pretty memorable locations that readers get to visit. One of the most interesting is a gaseous planet that's filled with ghosts of some kind. There are also some shots of familiar, but still exotic locations as well as a good long look at the fabled robot resistance hideout, the Machine Moon. It turns out that the resistance has been hiding in a literal mechanical moon where they've built out a home that's large enough to be considered it's own planet. The majority of the story takes place in a large research facility on this over-sized base of operations, really only shifting focus when switching perspectives to a different character. There're are some incredibly gorgeous shots of scifi scenery, but I did wish I had a little more of those and a little less of the space stations and laboratories. 

PLOT/TONE 
Tim-22's idea of fun
Rather than the story being about Quon, Tim-21 and Telsa's journey through space in search of answers, the story instead takes a slightly more stationary approach. The main cast is brought to the Machine Moon, where they will ultimately stay for the rest of the volume. Here, Quon and Telsa find themselves as the only organic beings on an entire planet of machines who could murder them at any time. Tim-21, being the innocent little robot that he is, has no comprehension of the danger he and his friends face. He's instead interested in getting to know his new "brother" Tim-22 as well as working with the resistance to figure out what makes him special. It turns out that there might be a sort of robot heaven where all of the destroyed robots can be retrieved from and Tim-21 holds this key. Quon finds himself struggling with the fear of what destruction his creations might bring while simultaneously curious about the secrets they could help him uncover. All of this is pretty tense, but there's not much in the way of real action. Most of that is instead provided by Andy who takes on his most difficult mission yet.
The team tries to unlock the truth using Tim-21

Due to there not being as much moving around this time, the scale of the story does feel a little toned down. There definitely are scenes with other planets, stations, and ships to liven things up, but overall, this feels like a far less eventful story than before. That said, I was glad that the story took a little time to process and address some of the shocking reveals that came at the end of VOLUME 1 and the narrative does get brought forward as new plot points are set up. It's just an undeniably slower and less impactful series of events this time around. This volume does end on a pretty shocking cliffhanger as well though and I'm excited to see where things will go from here.  

CONCLUSION 
After everything that happened in the first volume of the series, it's hardly surprising that this one would be more of a transitional story. I liked that the characters get a little bit of quiet time and thought the writer did a good job of keeping these less eventful moments engaging and tense. All of the new characters introduced do add a good deal to the story, I just wish they didn't come at the cost of sidelining some of the existing members of the cast. Basically, if you loved the first volume like I did, then you'll need to pick this one up. It doesn't quite match the crazy tempo that the first one set, but I also don't think fans of the series will be disappointed by what VOLUME 2 has to offer.

 If you want to check out more reviews on DESCENDER VOLUME 2: MACHINE MOON, then head on over to Goodreads.

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