Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ascender, Vol. 3: The Digital Mage by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

The formula is still strong with this one, but I guess that's OK: it's an old formula, but one that a lot of people like and that still has some juice to it. Just because I can see every plot development coming a parsec away isn't necessarily a reason to say it's bad, I guess.

But seeing plot developments coming that far away does give a reader a lot of time to scrutinize them as they approach, and Ascender does not have enough story detail to give a lot of depth to reward such scrutiny. So, as before, my advice is to read the Ascender books as quickly as possible and try not to let any extraneous thinking enter your brain during the process. The more you can concentrate on Dustin Nguyen's lovely painted art, the better.

Here in Ascender, Vol. 3: The Digital Mage, writer Jeff Lemire has exactly the big reveal that I expected when I wrote about the first volume, at exactly the moment I thought. I'm not claiming any particular prescience; a monkey with bifocals could have seen it coming, and it's on the frigging cover of this book, too. The the surviving cast of Descender continues to gather for the eventual big showdown with Mother and the Vampires Who Were Always There But No One Knew They Were Because It Used to Be a Science Universe And Now It's a Magic Universe, Look Just Trust Us On This, Okay?

Speaking of the vampires, a character in the first issue collected here bluntly states the vampires were "underground" for "eons" in this volume - yeah, sure, just keep saying that and maybe it will make sense. Frankly, "the rules of the world changed and now there have always been vampires" would have been more elegant and a better fit for a magical universe to begin with: magic is about transformation and paradox. But no one asked me.

The party is still split for this volume, with Mila and Telsa zipping across space, Andy and {SPOILER} trying to survive on Sampson, and our two vampire Mothers (old fat previous model and her sister the slim gorgeous redhead current titleholder) wandering around plotting and scheming, mostly against each other. They will all come together for the big fight, obviously.

By the way, time for another obvious prediction: the ending of Ascender will feature a sudden but inevitable betrayal by old Mother of new Mother, which will save the day for Our Heroes. I'm mostly sure it will be purely out of spite and hatred, but old Mother might also have a moment of "Oh, gosh, The Source of All Magic is so Wicked Kewl I cannot let my evil sister get it."

Anyway, it's all zippy and exciting. There's very little time for real character work, so it's a good thing we're nine volumes in and everyone is pretty well established. (Sucks for Mila, who gets to be "spunky kid with Secret Powers," and no space for anything else, but them's are the breaks.)

I still cannot take this seriously in any way, in any universe with laws based on magic or science. I see a fourth volume will be published in October: if my library system gets it, or if a copy mysteriously has been "underground" for "eons" near me and spontaneously erupts, I expect I will read it. But probably not otherwise.

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