Ascender, the science fiction fantasy series set within the world of Descender, continues this week with Ascender #5. Published by Image Comics, Ascender is written by Jeff Lemire with art by Dustin Nguyen, and with letters and design from Steve Wands.
Last issue, we saw our father-daughter duo running for their life, seeking refuge after jumping off a cliff on the boat belonging to an old friend. For Andy and Mia, the danger is still real, as they attempt to escape off-world. In addition, we saw Mother and her attendants be blown up as someone with answers about the rebellion reveals that they are a trap.
In Ascender #5 we continue following Andy and Mia as they beg for assistance from Telsa, an old acquaintance of his. While the two argue for assistance, it’s clear that their last parting wasn’t on good terms. Then, Bandit pops up. The small little robot that is essentially a dog that took down a giant last issue becomes a larger piece of the story.
As Bandit, the puppy, becomes the focus we learn that Mother survived. Even a blast that leveled an entire area could not break Mother’s magic and now, she knows about “the hound” now and about Mia. While Andy and Mia are struggling to survive and escape from the planet Sampson, the threat is larger now. It isn’t just a militia on one planet that they have to worry about now, it’s the big bad of the series too.
Overall, Ascender #5 is all about set-up; it features some blank pages that build tension that could have been used for story and it begins to bridge the two stories we’ve been following in each issue. Beyond the setup, this issue also brings in some more elements that draw a distinction between the light and airy environment and colors of Sampson and the stark red, white, and black world of Mother. The first piece of which is a full page of body horror.
Nguyen’s art has been breathtaking and extremely unique in the current landscape of comics. It’s gorgeous and in pages like the one above, disturbing. With watercolors and strong precise inking, we get to witness three people becoming one. The flesh and veins swirling like a paisley pattern while the terrified faces begin to smash into one another. The flesh warping and melting. Making an image both disgusting and beautiful is hard work, but Nguyen pulls that off in Ascender #5.
Overall, Ascender #5 has moments that set up the rest of the story, but outside of Mother’s person-melding moment, there aren’t many things that issue causes an impact with. While I’m not blown away by the issue, I am invested in Mia’s survival, which is enough.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.