The new AfterShock comic, Descendent, draws on American history and the love of a good conspiracy. Elements of true stories are mixed in with the fictional adventure to create a gripping, challenging read. It is an intelligent comic which doesn’t spoon feed the reader but instead allows the reader to interact with it on whatever level they want to.
Stephanie Phillips open’s her conspiratorial tale with a heinous act: the kidnapping of a Senator’s child. The Senator in question is portrayed as a headstrong, hard right-winger who is tough on his wife, even in horrendous circumstances. His depiction is that of a villain which affects the way the reader interprets the situation, especially in light of the rest of the story.
The other story thread introduces David and his ex-wife, Amanda. David is obsessed with conspiracies but his obsession goes beyond spouting over-used rhetoric. David actively challenges the establishment in an attempt to shine a light on the truths he believes in.
Phillips uses an action sequence to introduce David. This approach not only tells the reader something about David’s character but also about Senator Miller and his self absorbed introduction. These are the two main characters and by contrasting the way the reader first meets them, Phillips is able to enhance and compare their personalities without the characters having to meet.
The most fascinating aspect of this comic is the way Phillips weaves real conspiracy theories into the plot. David’s knowledge of these theories and their relationship to the story gives Descendent an edge over other such comics. Whereas the conspiracy theme is a large aspect of comics such as Saucer State, the ‘Truths’ are often extraterrestrial or supernatural in nature and require a much more open mind. In Descendent there is an element of realism and proven truth to the theories, this gives the story more weight.
There is a strong distinction between the characters voices evident through the script. The way that David talks in comparison to Amanda, for example, allows the reader access to their relationship beyond the words spoken. Again, Phillips forces the readers to questions the characters by comparing the interactions of the central cast. David and Amanda appear to have a more caring relationship than Carter and Jean, despite the fact they are divorced and the other couple aren’t.
In a comic such as Descendent, the art work has to make the character’s act. Their personalities and emotions have to shine through their expressions and posture. Much of the story is simple interaction between characters and, except for a single scene, there is very little action. Evgeniy Bornyakov produces some excellent figure work. Although his penciling is fairly standard with a realist approach, there is an element of modernism to his work. His figures have an elongated look with smooth curves which gives the comic a suave appearance.
Lauren Affe’s colors continue this expressionist approach by adding small details of bright color against the more realistic, earthy tones. The bright pink of a teddy bear is later reflected in the pink of some fluffy dice in David’s car.
The back grounds are highly detailed but neither Bornyakov or Affe are afraid to drop the backgrounds entirely to emphasis the foreground or the speech lettered by Troy Peteri. Descendent is about spotlighting certain elements of a story, or a conspiracy, and the art work accomplishes this just as much as the script.
This first issue is about laying the ground work for the series. It introduces the main cast in an in-depth way so that the reader has a good indication about the characters. A brief moment of action adds a faster paced element to the comic but this also works to enhance the characters.
The real beauty of the piece is that it subconsciously encourages the reader to search out extra reading. Everyone who reads this will be Googling Lindbergh Baby as soon as they can. In a world of ‘fake news’ and institutionalized bias, it is wonderful to read a comic that encourages the reader to seek information for themselves, to broaden their horizon’s and find their own Truths.
Between them, the creators have produced an intriguing first issue. Focusing on characters, Phillips has been able to relay a surprisingly high amount of information in a single issue. She treats the readers with respect and does not spoon feed them information. Descendent is a clever introduction to a series and will appeal to fans of the X-Files and Paul Cornell’s Saucer State series.