I think most of the Descender readers always kind of knew what direction the comic book was heading in by the second half of so, but that shouldn’t really take away from anything. A semi-predictable conclusion to a story when as well written as Descender was, is by no means a bad thing. Lemire is a visionary through and through, and the ending of Descender was a breath of relief all of its readers after 32 issues of greatness and suspense. Lemire closing the doors of Descender only opens new ones however and after a short hiatus we’re presented with Ascender, the culmination and presentation of everything that Descender lead up to. I’m not sure if Lemire always had this path in mind (I would wager yes), but with the comics success I can’t imagine he and Image Comics wouldn’t want to continue into another story like this one. Descender is one of the few Image comics I’ve read that remained consistently great throughout, so of course I’m on board.
It’s a little difficult to avoid spoilers from Descender here if we talk at all about the story, because the entirety of Ascender’s world is contingent, so, I’m just going to spoil. Skip to the last paragraph or so if you haven’t read Descender yet. Ascender begins a decade or so into the future. Descender #32 started this timeline and this #1 continues it. Robots are gone and mortal-kind has descended (wink) back into a tribal like form. The people we see worship someone called The Mother, who we quickly learn isn’t exactly the most benevolent leader. Mila, our new main character is the daughter of a now older Andy, the robot hunter and secondary protagonist of Descender. She’s the rebellious type, living with her father outside of the city and outside the grip of The Mother as a free person. Having been born too recently to understand the world previous to the events of the end of Descender however, she doesn’t quite understand her father’s stubbornness and unwillingness to assimilate into this new world. Naturally, she’s curious about the world before, but the coven of witches, also known as The Mothers, have put great effort into wiping out any further traces of robot technology in the galaxy in order to rule it themselves. As our new curious protagonist soon finds though, is that these witches may have not done such a great job after all.
The biggest takeaway from Ascender is that it’s more of the same, and that’s perfect. The art is the same, the style of storytelling is the same. Magic is a sort of new addition to the Descender universe but it fits well into the mysterious nature of the universe in general. Lemire and his partners obviously love this story and their passion continues to show in this new first issue. It really feels like this could go on another 30 issues and beyond, and the team never wavers. They write like they have it all fleshed out in their heads, and I’m painfully excited to see what more is to come with this series.
(5 / 5)
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While I should put myself onto a lengthy Star Wars comic review hiatus, I had to come out of temporary retirement when I saw a new Tarkin Age of the Republic comic book on the shelf the other week. Wilhuff Tarkin is one of my all time favorite Star Wars characters and all time nerdom characters. While he only appears in 1 movie as well as his CGI appearances in Rogue One, Peter Cushing’s role as the Grand Moff is pure brilliance. Tarkin’s additional comics and books throughout the years highlight what the original Star Wars movie introduced: a strategically brilliant and ruthless military leader able to stand next to the ever intimidating Darth Vader with confidence. His wholehearted allegiance to the Empire makes him a fascinating character to watch and read, and I’m always excited to see more of him on the page or the screen, so here’s hoping Tarkin #1 delivers.
Interestingly enough, most of this short one-shot Tarkin comic takes place shortly before and shortly after the events of Alderaan’s destruction, even reconstructing the scene between Tarkin, Leia and Vader where Tarkin interrogated Leia and ends up destroying her home planet with the Death Star anyway. Tarkin compares much of his daily life with his early days, hunting and scavenging from a young age and learning to strive on his own, all callbacks to his recent Tarkin novel a few years ago. His crew is young and while loyal to the Empire aren’t exactly the military machine that Tarkin has proudly become. The destruction of an entire planet is no easy task to carry out. As Tarkin discovers hesitancy from many of his crew tasked with carrying out the steps necessary to actually fire the Death Star’s weapon, he questions their loyalty to the Empire. Despite them coming through with the weapons activation and doing their jobs, when Tarkin learns that one of his crew members was from Alderaan, he understands why there was a moment of hesitancy. It means little to Tarkin however. Duty above all else is Tarkin’s m.o., and anything less makes for a bad soldier.
I give some major props to this comic book for choosing this story to tell. There was a lot of directions they could have gone but they chose a very short period of time within the Star Wars universe and told a very tight knit, meaningful story. I don’t completely love Tarkin’s treatment of his men in this comic book, I always got the impression from other stories involving Tarkin that he was a fairly merciful military leader, despite his ruthlessness on the battlefield. He always gave off battle-hardened old man vibes to me and I think this comic takes away from that a little bit. That being said, stories are stories, and Tarkin’s character development isn’t exactly multiple movies or books in length. Overall, I think this comics choice of timeline and storytelling is really powerful, and it was an ambitious choice to go here instead of somewhere else, specifically before the events of a New Hope. Moreso, it really just makes me want more Tarkin stories. This character is great.
(4 / 5)
What’s a DC comic book story event without a ridiculous name right? DCeased is the next big event for the DC mainline continuity, and it’s something that both Snyder and Capullo have been teasing these past few months as fans have watched their mysterious tweets and mentions of something stirring within DC. Something they’ve been calling their final Batman story together. To be honest, It’s been difficult to keep up with, especially with things like Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis still steadily hitting shelves in a painfully slow but no doubt deliberate pace. I know very little about this new story going in, but naturally I hear the names Snyder and Capullo and I’m immediately on board. Their Batman run of 2011 is legendary, and I have no doubt whatever they’re cooking up hidden behind all this fluff will be glorious.
The first half of so of this first issue follows Darkseid, an evil god and one of the most powerful entities in the DC universe. His recent invasion of Earth is quickly answered by the Justice League, who bring his swift defeat at the hands of a not-so-happy-to-see-him Superman. Defeated, Darkseid retreats, though he’s already retrieved what he was looking for elsewhere. Cyborg, created by technology akin to the Anti-Life Equation, an extremely powerful and dangerous ‘thing’ Darkseid has spent his entire life trying to find was Darkseid’s target all along. Now kidnapped by the minions of Apokolips, Darkseid’s home world, they work tirelessly to tear the Anti-Life Equation from Cyborg’s cybernetic body. Though perhaps with some impatience and eagerness for the prize he’d spent so long trying to obtain Darkseid finds himself in a less than ideal situation, forcing the Anti-Life equation out of Cyborg and sending shock waves throughout the universe as a result. Though Cyborg is able to return to Earth during this time, his connection to the digital world causes a heap of trouble, as the now revealed Anti-Life Equation uploads itself onto the internet all over the world, festering as an incredibly malicious virus and in turn, a mind altering disease. Hundreds of millions across the planet become plagued with the Equation and lose their minds, going berserk and killing everything in their path. The Justice League is forced to move quickly, though as they’re forced to sever their connection to the web they find themselves scattered, unable to contact each other.
I’ll start by saying I didn’t expect zombies. I’m not a fan of them, but I suppose I should have known just by looking at the cover and reading the name. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though, and I’m always willing to give comics a shot, especially for DC. Disregarding the zombie element for a second, the style of this comic’s writing and the buildup to the end of the comic is pretty entertaining. The story obviously revolves primarily around Batman, but the Justice League which has now expanded quite significantly, now similar to the old JL roster, have their roles to play too, and it’s all handled quite well. The art is the comic’s primary weak point, but I’ve certainly seen worse, and I think the art direction is something that could grow on me after a few issues. We’ll have to see how this comic continues and how it ties back into Snyder’s storylines he’s stitching together, but to be honest, I hope the zombie stuff doesn’t last the whole run.
(3.5 / 5)
With Endgame hitting theaters this previous week, it’s only natural that we find a Thanos comic hitting the shelves. Marvel has a hefty track record of shameless marketing when it comes to their comic books, and it’s hard to really blame them. It weighs a little heavy with the Star Wars stuff especially, but it can’t really be helped. The saving grace of these marketing ploys however, is that Marvel often uses strong talent to craft these stories, and from what I’m hearing, and with the creative team on this comic book, Thanos is no exception. This is by no means a movie adaptation similar to what Marvel does with every Star Wars movie, though I’m actually surprised they don’t do them for their MCU movies, but rather a dark maturely rated look into Thanos’ character and his daughter Gamora. Naturally, I upon hearing about this direction they were taking this, I was intrigued to see how the writers would balance utilizing the content from Infinity War and employing their own ideas and story elements. Of course, there was only one way to find out.
Despite the comics name, this first issue and potentially those going forward from here are actually a Gamora origin story. The issue opens with her exclaiming that in order for “you”, presumably not the reader, to understand everything going on, you need to first understand where she came from and how she was raised. Cut to a young but extremely successful Thanos, a brutal warlord hellbent on slaughter and domination. Similar to the movies and to Thanos generally as a character, he’s primarily interested in keeping threats down, strong species curbed, and innocents slaughtered. There is an extreme hue of bloodlust from Thanos throughout the lengthy comic book, and you really feel here that he believes what he is doing is wholly right and necessary, and that even more importantly, only he can accomplish it. His elite soldiers, while loyal, grow somewhat impatient as they’re constantly tasked with menial missions that provide no challenge to their nigh incontestable killing prowess. It becomes clear to both the reader and these soldiers, that Thanos is not himself, and because of his apparent inevitability as a merciless warlord, they have to figure out why and how to fix it. When slaughtering a large village of innocent and peaceful people, Thanos stumbles upon none other than a young Gamora, and a new relationship begins. His soldier’s and his own mission to return Thanos to his normal self may have just solved itself.
This comic book is certainly an interesting change of pace from your typical Marvel comic book. More mature and serious comics do make their appearances every now and again with the Marvel universe but they’re typically in the form of the more obvious characters like DareDevil and Punisher, characters we now often associate with their R rated Netflix shows. While Thanos certainly isn’t anything to gawk over from a violence or vulgarity perspective, it also doesn’t mind being casual about how much of a complete psychopath Thanos is, and that’s rad. Additionally, the story here is interesting enough. While we’ve seen a lot of this before in previous comics and even somewhat in Infinity War, the scenes we get between the action with Thanos on his ship, and his soldiers trying to figure out their mysterious leader as he broods all on his lonesome are by far the most interesting, and make the comic worth the read. These movies will naturally create a lot of Thanos fans, he’s a cool villain, so I think he deserved a comic book that doesn’t tread too far into the “this is just because the movie is out” territory. I think this comic book delivers that in a strong enough sense, and that’s good enough for me.
(4 / 5)