Published on March 13th, 2019 | by Mark McKechnie
Ascender #1 Review
Summary: Well written, with excellent pacing and a great meld of writing and art.
Ascender is the sequel series to Descender, picking up ten years after the conclusion of that series. It follows Mila, the daughter of Andy and Effie from the previous series. Andy keeps Mila from the world in an attempt to protect her from the vampire-witch known as Mother.
I’ll start by saying this is a beautiful book. First off is the backgrounds. Some panels are incredibly well detailed, and others are sparse beyond the characters featured. This allows the book to focus on what is important in each individual panel and draw the readers’ attention directly to it. The first scenes on the planet Sampson for example are beautifully detailed, bringing the reader into a vibrant world of wonder and life. On the other hand, several of the scenes involving Mother and her minions focus solely on the characters in the panel, with patches of darker purple being the only background. This gives the important pieces of each panel the ability to stand out and shine. The tremendous art work is used brilliantly to drive the story forward, and create the desired atmosphere for each panel.
The two worlds represented in this book couldn’t be more different. The world of Knossos is dreary, dark, and grey. It is very much a world that feels like hope has vacated. This dreary slave world is where the story begins, and it makes for a great place to introduce the story’s villains. Like them it is cold and dark. Sampson in contrast is bright and green, beautiful peaks and warm earthy colours abound. A giant turtle soars through the air. It really creates a hopeful atmosphere around our protagonists.
The story begins on the planet of Knossos, as the servants of Mother are surprised by her sudden arrival. She has come to see the prisoner her forces have taken in a battle against the UGC rebels. Here we get to see some of the extent of Mother’s power, as not even death can keep this poor prisoner’s secrets safe. Mother cannot find out exactly who is aiding the rebels, but her prisoner’s body transforms into a clue: the head of a robot.
Next the story takes us to Sampson, a world occupied by Mother’s forces, but far freer and full of life. It is here that we are introduced to Mila, a young girl trying to explore her world and stay out of the clutches of Mother’s troops. For those who followed Descender, Mila is the daughter of Andy and Effie, the preceding series protagonists. We learn that Andy is paranoid about losing his daughter to Mother, and that something terrible happened to Effie to protect Mila.
The issue ends with Mother receiving a warning from her coven, and Mila coming face to face with an off-world creature that crashed to the earth before her. It sets up the next issue nicely.
This book is very well written, with excellent pacing and a great meld of writing and art. Outside of some brief setting descriptions when a new planet is introduced, Lemire and Nguyen let the art describe the world. This lets the writing tell the story itself. They’ve struck a good balance in doing so, allowing the writing and art to take turns in the forefront as the story demands.
Ascender #1 is a great book. While knowledge of Descender will give you some background to the story. However, it’s not necessary to enjoy this book. I enjoyed how the book itself was structured, as the expository panels have little to no writing. This let the art and the imagination of the reader do the work to bring it to life. If you’re looking for a new series to pick up, or are a fan of Descender, this book is a great pick up!
A great start to a new series, 4 out of 5 stars!
Writing and Art by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen