Ascender follows ten years after the events that ended Descender, and for the sake of minimal spoilers, I will have to be brief here. The story follows Mila, daughter of Andy, on the planet Sampson. Somewhere in the ten years between the two series, the magic that is introduced in the middle of the Descender series becomes the strong force that rules the galaxy.
In The Haunted Galaxy, we learn there is a sinister group of vampiric beings ruling the galaxy, headed by a force-of-nature of a woman named Mother. Mother has generations of magical power behind her, and uses that power often. Robots are 100% forbidden, and if any of Mother’s spells are tripped by the use of technology, Mother’s minions immediately descend on the perpetrator, and the result is most likely death. The robotic dog, Bandit, who used to belong to TIM-21 and Andy in Descender, shows up on Sampson and trips all of those spells. Bandit has some information about TIM-21, but first, Mila and her dad must run from Mother’s forces and keep Bandit safe.
In The Dead Sea, Andy and Mila are separated as Andy is captured by Mother’s forces and sent to become food at a Vamp Camp. Mother arrives in the nick of time to “save” him, but only because she wants to use him as part of her tracking spell to find Mila and Bandit. Meanwhile, Andy’s old friend, Captain Telsa, and Helda take Mila to an island where they have hidden their spaceship. An attack on Mother’s coven forces her back to her lair, where she discovers all of the mothers, the source of her power, is gone. She is visited by her former self, and we see the terrible things she endured and performed to become Mother.
This version of the universe is just as intriguing as the science-fiction-laden world in Descender. Ascender will intertwine sci-fi and fantasy into a fascinating adventure for our girl Mila. There was a lot of backstory given in the second volume, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I feel like Mother has a lot more dimension now, and I really need to see what happens to her, as the second volume, The Dead Sea, left her in a bit of a pickle. At the end of volume one, I really didn’t have any sympathy for her despite having hints that she had a hard life. Most of what happened after that second battle at the end of the Descender series is still a mystery, but volume two does give some really interesting tidbits that will hopefully continue throughout the Ascender series. A parallel between the two portions of the series is the reader knowing so much more than the characters, and Lemire builds on this frustration with every issue.
Dustin Nguyen’s beautiful and ephemeral watercolors once again build a vivid galaxy. He previously won Eisner awards in 2016 and 2019 for Best Painter/Multimedia Artist for his work on Descender. In Ascender, each area of the galaxy has its own color palette—Mother’s lair is predominantly haunting reds, while Sampson is full of vibrant blues, greens, and purples. What brought me into this series originally was the beautiful cover of The Haunted Galaxy, before I even knew Descender existed.
Image rates this as a Mature title, but the only thing in volumes one and two elevating its rating is language. In Descender, there is an adult scene and a bit of gore, so I am curious to see if Lemire adds any of those elements into Ascender.
Ascender Vol. 1: The Haunted Galaxy
By Jeff Lemire
Art by Dusting Nguyen
Ascender Vol. 2: The Dead Sea
By Jeff Lemire
Art by Dusting Nguyen
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Mature
Series Reading Order: https://www.goodreads.com/series/262414-ascender (Wikipedia or Goodreads)
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Lesbian