REVIEW: ‘Ascender,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ascender #1

Published by Image comics, Ascender comes from the powerhouse creative team behind the bestselling, award-winning Descender, writer Jeff Lemire, artist Dustin Nguyen, with lettering and design by Steve Wands. This new ongoing fantasy series is set in the same universe as their previous work, Descender. Set ten years after the conclusion of Descender, in Ascender, the machines have gone away, and in their absence magic has reclaimed the universe. Now one girl must embark on an epic quest to find robotkind and its fabled boy messiah, TIM-21, before it’s too late.

Since the last series launched in 2015 to awards and accolades, the bar was set high. Although I had not read Descender, the amount of praise that the series received was apparent as I told some people I would be reviewing the opening issue of Ascender. Although I’m sure that the goal of this series was to bring back in existing fans, it is also an easy world to jump into with no prior knowledge.

In Ascender #1, we’re introduced to Mother, who is in control of all magics and all of the remaining technology. Right off the bat, we are pulled into a world very different than our own. Ships are dragons, magic exists, and the dead speak. While mother and her followers try to root out the UGC rebels, a new mage, a powerful mage, shows their light, leaving behind technology that had been eliminated by Mother.

This issue focuses on two stories, that of Mother, her communing with the coven and visiting the dead prisoner, and that of the child Mila, a young girl with dreams of more than the mountains. The latter of these builds out the world that Mother controls, while the former builds out her power.

In Mila’s story we meet a girl who can hunt and wants to live in a bigger way than what she is relegated to. Since she has not been saved by Mother, she is not allowed to be in the town below the mountains, let alone trade within that town. However, we learn that her placement in the mountains is a choice, made not by her, but by her father. This choice has made them free, but Mila feels anything but.

Ascender #1 is wonderful start to a series that I can already tell has a world built around it while not making it hard to understand without previous context. Figures like Mother, the Coven, and even the planets have enough definition in the text or through the scenes that make them easy to grab a hold of. As a number one, this issue introduces lore that I want to know more of. Giving me Star Wars and Lord of the Rings feelings, I am excited to discover Mila’s world and see how she will help find the key to stopping Mother.

The art is beautiful. Nguyen’s watercolors add a sense of time, an oldness to the story, as do the designs of the creatures. The purpose of the art of the worlds is to depict a civilization and universe that has been pushed back before its technological advancements and the art and design succeed in this.

Ascender #1 is visually stunning in everything, including lettering. From the creation of a magical language in panels with Mother, to the fading of the words of the dead, to Mila’s internal dialogue and the childish letters that add character to the panels. This issue is a testament to a creative team looking world build in all areas, visually, in the script, and in the letters of the script itself.

I may be new to the Descender universe, but Ascender #1 makes me want to stay, read the old series, and come back when issue number two comes out.

Ascender #1 is available April 24th, wherever you get your comics.

Ascender #1
5

TL;DR

I may be new to the Descender universe, but Ascender #1 makes me want to stay, read the old series, and come back when issue number two comes out.