Kidnapped children, strange symbols, and secret societies form the basis of Descendent from AfterShocks Comics. While reminiscent of a 1970’s horror movie or one of Jonathan Hickman’s side projects, Descendent proves that conspiracies and their perpetrators can still fire the imagination of creators and readers alike.
David Corey posts YouTube videos about his investigations into the conspiracy he believes surrounds the missing children of high ranking politicians. Unfortunately for him, he is being observed by a robed society who wish him ill.
Meanwhile Agent Hernandez is carrying out her own investigation but seemingly with no success.
Could the two meeting prove to be beneficial or will they be drowned in the secrets surrounding them?
Stephanie Phillips packs this issue of Descendent with threat and mystery. Although not excessively original in the general plot, it is the telling of the story that makes it fresh and exciting. Secret robed sects are two a penny and can be found in numerous movies, novels and comics the world over, however Phillips expands on the familiar with engaging characters and gives the whole story a modern twist.
One of the stand out aspects of Phillips script is the inclusion of humour into characters and scenes. Where you might expect straight faced situations to play out, Phillips injects a comical glance between characters or a panel of childishness that contrasts the seriousness of the moment. This integration of comedy is a dying skill in the world of intense action and sombre reality but it adds depth and a relatability to the characters. Phillips makes her central cast complex and more than the sum of their parts; they are not simple plot devices used to move the narrative forward.
The main art work by Evgeniy Bornyakov is atmospheric and adopts a tense, thriller feel. The acting of the character’s works best during the static interactions; they have an emotional physicality expressed through posture and facial expressions. Where Bornyakov’s art sometimes falls flat is during action sequences. With some panels he produces an impressive composition with altering viewpoints to add suspense and drama, however there are moments that lack the required dynamism or threat.
The coloring does an impressive job of setting the scenes. Lauren Affe creates an eerie night for the graveyard scene but turns the light up for the saturated modern police station setting. The contrast between the police headquarters and the secret societal room exists because of Affe’s coloring.
There are some subtle touches to Troy Peteri’s lettering that helps the storytelling process. An occasional alteration to the tail of a speech balloon gives that particular piece of speech an added element or indicates that the speech is somehow different; this is most noticeable in a conversation between a police officer and a prisoner when they communicate through glass. Peteri is able to effectively dampen one character’s speech by changing the end of the balloon tail.
The subtleties in the art work help to reinforce the realism that Phillips utilises in her script. The narrative has an edge because the world of Descendent is relatable: this approach made the X-Files popular in the 1990’s.
Although there is an odd wobble in some of the panels, the overall structure and narrative flow in Descendent #2 is pleasing and effective. Phillips’ story has credibility which is backed up by the complex art work, and as such draws the reader in. She has control over the plot and shows just enough to give the reader a shock without making everything obvious.
One of the outstanding elements of this comic are the little character moments that add depth and humour; whether this is David blowing out his cheeks on a glass patrician or a shrouded figure quipping a cheesy one liner. These moments breathe fresh air into an all too serious genre and allow the reader to engage with the narrative on a more comfortable level.
Descendent is proving to be an intriguing, character driven comic to rival great conspiracy stories like Saucer State or the Black Monday Murders. Different enough to stand out but similar enough to bare comparison.