Mila comes face to face with the realities of her new life in Ascender #5, by writer Jeff Lemire, artist Dustin Nguyen, and letterer Steven Wands. A colossal moment happens in this issue, and the creative team handles it wonderfully, playing the moment for everything it’s worth.
Andy and Mila wake up Telsa and meet her first mate, Helda. Telsa refuses to help them, but Andy begs her. Then she sees Bandit. On Tramun, Mother has survived the magical attack by the UGC rebel leader and takes her frustration out on the Twins, before a psychic shows her a vision of Mila and Bandit on Sampson. Back on Sampson, Telsa asks about Tim-21, but Andy has no answers to that. Bandit begins to show them where he needs them to go when they are attacked by Mother’s militia. What comes next is a moment that will shock readers.
This issue is heart-wrenching and then uplifting. Lemire throws in a surprise moment, then another one at the end of the chapter. It’s a beautiful one-two punch that wouldn’t work nearly as well if readers weren’t so attached to the characters. Following these characters through Descender and into this new title has given readers an appreciation of who these characters are. And what they’ve been through. In the hands of a lesser writer, there’s a good chance that readers wouldn’t care nearly as much, but Lemire has given the audience a reason to care about them, and it all comes down to excellent character writing.
That said, without Dustin Nguyen’s art, the moment wouldn’t work nearly as well. He captures the intensity of the moment wonderfully, the shock and the emotion of it. Throughout these books, Nguyen’s art has played a massive part in laying out who these characters are and what their world is like. His linework is expressive but straightforward. Elsewhere in the issue, he presents a ghastly image of what Mother does to the Twins, and it shows just how talented he is. He runs the gamut in this issue, giving emotion, action, and body horror in pitch-perfect ways.
The vision from the psychic is another wrinkle to the whole thing. Mother now knows about Mila and Bandit, and that’s a big deal. Bandit could very well be the key to bringing robots and technology back to the galaxy. This is anathema to Mother. Putting her on Mila’s path holds new dangers for the main cast and also moves things closer to a reveal of what has been going on in the years since Descender. Maybe Lemire will give readers more hints about how Mother was able to take over things so easily and why she hates technology so much.
Ascender #5 does so well because the creative team gels and makes it all work. One could say that the big moment of the issue is simple shock tactics, especially with the way the book ends. But Lemire and Nguyen have worked so hard to put readers into this world that it never feels cheap or manipulative. This issue opens the story, even more, giving readers so much to look forward to. It will be a treat to see what comes next.