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’ #2, out May 23 from AfterShock Comics.

Her Infernal Descent #2

Interior page from ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #2. Art by Kyle Charles and Jordan Boyd/AfterShock Comics

By Mickey Rivera. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from reading about extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. There should be more space on comic book shelves for ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. As fellow DoomRocket reviewer Brandon F. Hodgdon noted in their review of Her Infernal Descent #1, Lynn, the book’s protagonist, “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.”

Co-creators Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson, who have of late been on a storytelling hot streak with Black Mask’s Come Into Me and a run on Marvel’s Cable, re-imagine the story of Dante’s Inferno as told through the experience of an ordinary woman — the crankiest, sweetest, saddest widow you could imagine — who’s lost everything and is willing to go to any length to get some of it back. It has the doting vibe of The Triplets of Belleville, mixed with the sharpness and wit you’d expect from an earnest literary adaptation.

Her Infernal Descent #2 continues Lynn’s pitch into Hell to find her family, leaving behind the first circle, Limbo, and beginning the second circle. As we follow our heroine deeper into perdition, things fittingly become more and more surreal. Kyle Charles’ art gets a lot of room to play in, especially in terms of imagining the kinds of monstrously twisted souls that might inhabit Hell in modern times. (For instance, there appears to be a special place for those who obsess over social media gratification.) Charles depicts these lost souls as a mob of naked, clamoring, semi-braindead zombies with computer monitors instead of human heads. Accurate. There is also an amazing two-page spread depicting a gigantic, terrifying conceptualization of Cerberus, the multi-headed hound of hell, that is just jaw-droppingly cool.

Her Infernal Descent #2

Interior page from ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #2. Art by Kyle Charles, Dee Cunniffe, and Ryan Ferrier/AfterShock Comics

The original Inferno, part one of the old school blockbuster trilogy known as The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, is syncretic in nature, mixing ancient Greek/Roman mythological and historical figures with Christian theology. Alighieri places the fabled Tyrant King of Crete, Minos, at the entrance to Hell’s second circle to Judge all those who don’t belong in Limbo. As we saw in issue #1, Thompson and Nadler seem to have figured the Greeks and Romans are outdated in this day and age, and that some more contemporary spiritual figures would be more interesting. Oddly enough this means bringing in a lot of literary figures as characters, such as William Blake and David Foster Wallace. In this issue, King Minos’ role has been taken up by the dark and brooding existentialist author Franz Kafka.

I will admit that this sort of literary fan service is highly effective on me, but it’s not just name-dropping for the hell of it. Celebrities, even nerdy ones like writers, are archetypal figures who embody aspects of the human condition, aspects defined by their body of work and lives (their mythologies, if you will). So Kafka isn’t just the Judge of the underworld, he’s also one of the people responsible for infecting our collective consciousness with violent, grotesque existential dread and despair through his writing. Additionally, his role in Hell is part of his punishment, one that is based on real life familial issues he suffered in his life, issues which, beautifully enough, resonate somewhat with the story of the mythological King Minos who’s place he has taken in the Inferno.

In short, Her Infernal Descent is damn clever, not only in its ability to play Connect the Literary Dots, but in its use of these semiotic tricks to build compelling characters. I’m deeply concerned about Lynn, the determined mother at the heart of this story. I want to know what happened to her family. I want her to find them. It’s entirely possible that by the end of the story we’ll learn that this ornery old lady lost her family because she murdered them all, but I’m willing to trust Her Infernal Descent’s creative team to make any future plot developments work. This is an intelligent, tightly woven fable aimed at your heart and your brain.

AfterShock Comics/$3.99

Co-created and written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson.

Co-created and art by Kyle Charles.

Colors by Dee Cunniffe.

Letters by Ryan Ferrier.

9 out of 10

‘Her Infernal Descent’ #2 hits stores this Wednesday.

Check out this three-page preview of ‘Her Infernal Descent’ #2, courtesy of AfterShock Comics!