Best Shots Advance Reviews: HER INFERNAL DESCENT #1, SKYWARD #1

Her Infernal Descent #1 variant
Credit: Robert Hack (AfterShock Comics)
Credit: Lee Garbett/Antonio Fabela (Image Comics)

Skyward #1
Written by Joe Henderson
Art by Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Image Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

A new series by writer Joe Henderson and artist Lee Garbett, Skyward #1 takes a look at an Earth that has lost its gravity, and how humanity has adapted to such a change. At its center is a girl named Willa, who was too young to remember when Earth had its normal gravity, and her sense of adventure is causing drama in her family.

The opening of Skyward #1 immediately grabs your attention as the comic opens on the day Earth lost its gravity. Rather than show catastrophic disasters, Henderson opts to focus on a singular family, as Nate attempts to rescue his wife Lilly and infant daughter Willa as everything comes unmoored from the Earth.

The issue jumps twenty years later into a beautiful double page spread of Willa as she navigates through the skyscrapers in a zero-g adapted Chicago. This transition is wonderfully handled by Garbett and color artist Antonio Fabela as the golden hues of the morning sun give this spread a feeling of warmth and adventure. It contrasts well with the opening, suggesting the exhilaration Willa feels as she expertly navigates her home.

Where Skyward #1 really succeeds is in showing the reader bits and pieces of how this low gravity version of Earth works. Rather than get bogged down in exposition, we catch the young Willa on her regular day, as a courier in Chicago. In doing this, Henderson and Garbett visually show the city and the issues with navigating it - grappling lines allow people to stay anchored to the ground, robbers use knives instead of guns because the kickback from a gunshot would send them flying, and a home workout requires a bunch of added contraptions to keep the user and the machine stable.

With that last bit, a sense of Skyward’s direction comes into play. While Willa has always enjoyed her world, tension has grown between her and her father. Fabela’s colors tell the story here as well, as Nate, now with gray around his temples, works out in the darkness of his room. Thanks to Garbett’s lines, you can feel the weight on his shoulders. There’s a great visual contrast between father and daughter as well. You can see that he is doing everything in his power to bring himself back down to Earth, while she is perfectly comfortable floating about.

By focusing on the drama between father and daughter, Joe Henderson gives Skyward #1 an emotional hook for readers and leaves room for subsequent issues to reveal more about the world. What is shown here is fascinating and well realized. Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela do a fantastic job in showing the world without needing to have exposition explain everything around it. That makes for an immersive and entertaining read.

Credit: Kyle Charles/Jordan Boyd (AfterShock Comics)

Her Infernal Descent #1
Written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson
Art by Kyle Charles and Dee Cunniffe
Lettering by Ryan Ferrier
Published by AfterShock Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson deliver the spiritual successor to their series The Dregs with the debut of Her Infernal Descent from AfterShock Comics. Following a woman grieving after the death of her family, Nadler and Thompson take her and readers on a poetic journey into Hell in order to reunite her with her lost loved ones. Though the plot itself is fairly straightforward, Nadler and Thompson’s down-to-earth voice, dream-like structure, and raw emotionality really makes this debut shine. Nadler and Thompson also find great visual partners in penciler Kyle Charles and colorist Dee Cunniffe, who give this debut issue an anime inspired look and energy that feels equal parts Hayao Miyazaki and Dante Alighieri.

Right from the jump, Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson make is very clear that Her Infernal Descent is a story about grief; boring, gray, and bottomless grief. But they do so without really rubbing your nose into it. These first scenes are simple, but powerfully effective as our leading lady goes through the motions of packing, musing about how everything is so quiet now and how the packing seems to have gone on for days. I really applaud Nader and Thompson’s restraint here in these early pages. They really build a strong emotional foundation from the jump, along with plaintive and forlorn artwork from Cunniffe and Charles. But like their meditative genre take on the homeless epidemic The Dregs, all this pathos is just sauce for a very, very trippy goose.

After the heart-wrenching opening scene, the creative team settles into a hallucinatory, but keenly self-aware trip down to the place where angels fear to tread. Visited by the ghost of William Blake, our lead is told her family awaits her down below and if she can find them, she may have a chance at returning them to the land of the living. It is all very What Dreams May Come, but unlike that movie, Nadler and Thompson aren’t afraid to have a little fun with the concept, giving our leading lady a wry, acerbic voice as she takes in all the mind-bending visuals and meeting dead celebrities and philosophers in stride. “The worst thing that could happen has already happened to me,” she tells Carrion as she crosses the River Styx. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has experienced loss.

And that attitude I think is what really sets Her Infernal Descent apart. Yes, it is very much about the grieving process and loss, but Nadler and Thompson’s tone and voice, along with Charles and Cunniffe’s constantly shifting pencils and colors, really keep this debut from feeling maudlin — a welcome change of pace from recent media about loss. Instead of using the premise to support the team’s emotional thesis, the team uses the overall thesis to support the dreamlike tone and structure of the story itself. Though I’m taking the plot at face value, nothing could stop this whole series from being some elaborate dream that our lead has cooked up in her head. The team leave it up to the reader to interpret what they are seeing and it's much appreciated and preferred to a book that just hammers you over the head with its “message” and focus.

Though it definitely isn’t as funny or as fast-paced as their other debuts, Her Infernal Descent #1 is still another big win for the writing team of Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson. Aided by the trippy artwork of Kyle Charles and Dee Cunniffe, this debut really puts its own spin on the grieving process by having as much fun as they can with it without losing what makes the process so draining and emotionally affecting. Filled to the brim with magical realism and genuine heart, Her Infernal Descent #1 is another gut-punch of a winner for AfterShock.

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