Ascender #3 // Review
Andy and Mila try to make their escape in Ascender #3, by writer Jeff Lemire, artist Dustin Nguyen, and letterer Steve Wands. Lemire and company turn in another standout comic in this one, telling a story full of emotion and suspense.
Ten years in the past, Andy and his girlfriend Effie witness the disappearance of the robots and the destruction of the UGC fleet. Effie tells Andy to jump them away, anywhere, and Andy brings them to his old home, Dirishu-6, where Effie informs him that she’s pregnant. In the present, Andy and Mila make their way through the woods. Mila is full of questions, and Andy’s lack of an actual plan makes her uneasy. Andy loses his temper with her and apologizes when they feel the ground shaking. A herd of animals runs past before they see what’s chasing them- one of Mother’s giant monsters. In the past, Andy comes back from a scavenging run and tells Effie that food is getting scarce and comm signals from other planets are getting fewer. A year later, the family is playing outside in their space suits when they spot something in the sky- dragons. In the present, Andy orders Mila to get to the ports and look for Telsa while he holds off the giant. In the past, the family is attacked by Mother’s vampires, and Effie stays behind so Andy and Mila can get away. In the present, Andy fires on the monster before realizing that Mila disobeyed him. Bandit slips loose from her backpack and activates guard dog mode, destroying the beast.
Lemire captures so much emotion in this issue, and it makes the whole thing that much more powerful. Mila is a child in a scary situation and asks questions because she has no idea what’s going on or what’s going to happen next. Andy is a man with a daughter in a scary situation, the difference being that he knows the stakes of their condition. His plan isn’t really a plan- it’s mostly just getting to the port as quickly as possible and deal with situations as they arise. He temper frays with Mila because he knows that they could easily die on their journey. They’re both scared, and it affects them differently. It’s a very realistic look at how a child looks at danger and how an adult does.
The flashback scenes are where Lemire really jerks on the heartstrings, especially at the end. What happens to Effie is heartbreaking, and Mila and Andy have to watch it happen. It informs Mila’s decision in the present day not to abandon Andy like he told her to. The last time that sort of thing happened, she lost a parent, and she’s not about to let that happen again. Without her coming back, Andy would have definitely been killed, but Mila’s defiance of him save the day by bringing Bandit back. Bandit’s guard dog mode is quite powerful, and it’s not something that he was able to do in Descender. It’s a minor mystery where this new ability came from, but Lemire sets up smartly, without even commenting on it, just letting readers see it and putting two and two together from their knowledge of Bandit in the original series.
Dustin Nguyen’s art is terrific, as always. His character acting really gets across the feeling that Lemire is going for with his dialogue. Every page is filled with examples of this. Beyond that, he draws Mother’s monsters wonderfully. The giant is huge and misshapen, an ugly lumpy monstrosity. The dragons are only glimpsed for one page as they close on the family, but they’re so well drawn that the dread they inspire is palpable. The vampires are ravening monsters perfectly fitting their role in this issue.
Ascender #3 delivers on so many levels. Lemire and Nguyen are a fantastic team. The script and the art gel imperviously, drawing readers in and making them feel what’s happening on the page. Lemire invests the whole thing with so much feeling, and Nguyen gets that feeling across on the page. Beyond that, there’s a feeling of suspense throughout the entire thing as readers wait to see if Mother’s forces will be able to get Mila and Andy in the present and a feeling of foreboding in the flashbacks. So far, Ascender has been a great ride, and this issue is a perfect representation of that.