Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews — now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #1, out April 18 from AfterShock Comics.

Cover to 'Her Infernal Descent' #1. Art by Kyle Charles and Dee Cunniffe/AfterShock Comics

Cover to ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #1. Art by Kyle Charles and Dee Cunniffe/AfterShock Comics

By Brendan F. Hodgdon. There has been a long and prestigious tradition of literary journeys through Hell. From Paradise Lost and the Divine Comedy through to certain sections of Sandman, authors have loved exploring the Underworld and how it relates to the present moment. And now, Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson, Kyle Charles et al. have humbly thrown their hats into the ring with their new AfterShock series, Her Infernal Descent.

One thing that makes this book stand out from the get-go is the mundane nature of our protagonist, Lynn. She isn’t a fallen angel or the author’s romanticized self or some other larger-than-life figure. She’s just an older woman who has lost her family and readily grasps at a chance to be reunited with her loved ones in Hell, courtesy of an apparition of William Blake. In choosing this character as the focal point, Thompson & Nadler have made a much more grounded and relatable iteration of this quest, which makes the bizarre happenings of the issue all the more impactful.

What also makes their approach so effective is how droll and straight-faced they play things. Lynn is barely startled by the sudden appearance of a random poet’s ghost, and seems thoroughly unimpressed by the gradual twisting of reality all around her. The interplay between her, Blake, and the other literary ghosts they come across is very dry and entertaining, thanks to a script filled with constant rhyming that is fun instead of insufferable. This matter-of-fact approach to the story allows Nadler & Thompson to cover a lot of ground effectively.

Interior page from 'Her Infernal Descent' #1. Art by Kyle Charles, Dee Cunniffe, and Ryan Ferrier/AfterShock Comics

Interior page from ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #1. Art by Kyle Charles, Dee Cunniffe, and Ryan Ferrier/AfterShock Comics

The work of Kyle Charles supports both of these aforementioned elements very well. In the early going, Charles captures the devastating stillness of the day-to-day life after a tragedy, and conveys a great deal of emotion through simple expressions. And then, once Blake appears and reality begins to shift towards the hellish, Charles delivers bizarre, head-turning imagery (and page layouts) that sell the insanity of Lynn’s situation while maintaining the same clear-headed tone as the script. His depiction of the afterlife feels distinct and fresh, particularly in his design for Charon, and his work handling the likenesses of so many famous authors is very good as well.

What brings it all together is the very raw and tangible sense of depression that permeates the story. The sadness of Lynn’s home life and her lack of shock at the journey she’s taking speak to the blend of outer numbness and inner pain that come from depression and trauma. It’s this earnest depiction of these emotions that fuels the whole thing. From the unglamorous chaos of her home to her single-minded desire to find the souls of her family, even in the face of a cavalcade of angry authors’ ghosts, the suffering and heartache that she’s experiencing can be keenly felt.

Questions of loss and depression, death and love are perpetual concerns for humanity and our art, and the concept of Hell always offers an intense prism through which to consider such unsettling queries. While this isn’t the first or last story to undertake these considerations, it’s still a damn good one, and well worth reading. These collaborators have crafted an incredible work that truly brings this story to life… or death, as it were.

AfterShock Comics/$3.99

Written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson.

Art by Kyle Charles.

Colors by Dee Cunniffe.

Letters by Ryan Ferrier.

8.5 out of 10

‘Her Infernal Descent’ hits stores April 18.

Check out this six-page preview of ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #1, courtesy of AfterShock!