Mother’s forces strike a blow against the UGC rebels as Andy and Mila keep trying to evade capture in Ascender #4, by writer Jeff Lemire, artist Dustin Nguyen, and letterer Steve Wands. This issue doesn’t pack the emotional punch of the previous issue, but it does a great job of setting things up for later.
Mother is awakened by begging and it’s revealed that she has a prisoner- a small boy. She vows to never to release him when she is told her sons have arrived with news. They tell her they were able to capture the UGC rebels’ leader. Andy and Mila take a second to admire Bandit’s handiwork from the last issue when they are attacked by the dragons. The dragons chase them to a cliff and the two of them jump… landing on the back of a flying turtle. Mother is taken to the UGC leader and begins to interrogate him, but he tells her he is just bait, and this whole thing was a trap and that whole they scanned him for technology, the UGC has a magic of their own before he explodes in a burst of blue light. The turtles take Andy and Mila to the port and they find the ship they’re looking for. When they get aboard, though, they find Telsa, former UGC soldier, and friend of Andy and Tim-21, passed out drunk.
The issue begins with a touch of intrigue. Who is the boy Mother has prisoner? Why does she keep him in her room and why is so important? It’s perfectly deployed and brings so many different questions right off the bat. Lemire’s world-building is second to none and this little reveal is a testament to that. This is such a small thing- just an evil character with a prisoner, yet there’s so much that it could bring to the table. Lemire knows, though, that sometimes a little thing can be used to make a huge splash later.
Beyond that, the issue is a series of cliffhangers, in one case literally. Everything in the issue works to set up what comes next. Andy and Mila make it to the port, but will Telsa be any good to them? She’s passed out drunk and could be as much of a liability as a help. Mother goes to interrogate the UGC leader and is caught in a trap. Said trap is powered by magic, which the UGC is now using. All of these plot points are open-ended, giving readers the incentive to stay with the book to get the answers to each one.
What can be said about Dustin Nguyen’s art that hasn’t been said before? As usual, it’s perfect. The best part is the two-page spread with the flying turtles. The level of detail he puts into them is insane. The entire spread, from the majestic turtle in the foreground to the beautifully colored background is breathtaking and gives readers time to breathe after the suspense of the dragon chase.
Ascender #4 doesn’t pack the same punch as the previous issue. There’s no big emotional moments, just suspense and set up. That said, it’s done in such an engaging way that it doesn’t really feel like set up and that’s a testament to Lemire’s skill as a writer. Nguyen knocks it out of the park again, deploying his excellent character skills to sell the suspense and keep readers invested. This issue doesn’t reach the heights of some of the previous issues, but it’s still an excellent comic.