Her Infernal Descent #3
Lonnie Nadler (Writer), Zac Thompson (Writer), Kyle Charles (Artist), Dee Cunniffe (Colours), Ryan Ferrier (Letters)
27 June, 2018
A brokenhearted woman travels through the nine circles of Hell to find her family. Every time Lynn thinks she is getting closer to finding her husband and children, a new obstacle is placed in her path. Now, her guide through the circles of Limbo, poet William Blake, has to leave her side. Blake leaves Lynn with a parting gift—a painting he believes will prove useful in the next circle she visits. In his place, Lynn has a new guide—Agatha Christie, one of the world’s greatest crime authors.
Unlike Blake, who speaks only in rhyme (much to Lynn’s annoyance), Christie is a more articulate and sympathetic guide. She understands Lynn’s pain and empathises with her quest. It helps that Lynn is a huge fan and immediately feels more comfortable in Christie’s presence.
Christie guides Lynn through the circle of greed where Lynn must procure a one-of-a-kind ‘soup’ for Cerberus, the multi-headed guard dog of Hell, in exchange for information about her family.
But the soup belongs to someone who is not willing to give it up. He is going to need something spectacularly valuable in exchange, and Lynn and Christie must explore the circle of greed further if they are to find this elusive prize. On the way, they will meet artists, writers and celebrities, all of them helpful but only if the right bargain is struck. Can Lynn finally get closer to learning the whereabouts of her family? Or will she succumb to the forces of Hell and her own despair?
For those wary of revisiting Dante’s circles of Hell yet again, let me tell you that this series gives readers a modernised version and a new perspective. The Hell we see in this comic is far more colourful than the stark vision painted by Dante’s words in his Divine Comedy. The circle of greed visited in this issue is positively Warholesque, with good reason, and there are overtones of pop art suffusing the majority of the pages. Having said that, readers of the first two issues will not feel alienated by this stylistic departure; artist Kyle Charles manages to blend the pop art style with his own seamlessly.
Protagonist Lynn is the key to this story working. Whereas Dante was very much a romantic observer, Lynn is crotchety, determined and, at times, starstruck. She is the Everyman protagonist who is elevated by the heart-wrenching reason behind her adventure, the details of which we do not completely know. How exactly Lynn’s family died, and whether they died together when she was apart from them, are still mysteries that will likely be resolved in the final two issues of the series. Nevertheless, Lynn’s desperation to be reunited with them hints at a possible deeper involvement in their demise.
I was hoping that this would be a series one could get into without reading past issues but I would not advise it. Lynn’s experiences in the first few circles of Hell inform her impatience and anger in this issue. That she relates so well to Christie also makes more sense when the reader has been through two issues of William Blake’s non-stop lyrical pleas.
Speaking of Christie, I found her to be a much more engaging guide than Blake, who is a bit of a downer. Blake actually has more in common with Lynn, having lost his son and felt the same despair plaguing Lynn, but he fails to inspire any hope or optimism in her or the books’ readers. Christie is much more likable, not just because she speaks like a regular human being, but because her wit and even tone are familiar. Instead of coaxing and goading Lynn, she merely states facts, much like her beloved characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot were wont to do, and she allows Lynn to come to her own conclusions. In all honesty, Christie’s inclusion greatly adds to the readability of the comic, much more than Blake does.
Unlike its predecessors, this issue appears to be broken into two parts. The first is an adventurous tale with Lynn searching for the best bargain. But, once that quest is complete, Lynn, Christie and Blake come to a crossroads and the tone completely changes. Lynn has to face difficult memories and make a hard decision. The sorrow of her losses rises up again, in stark contrast to her colourful surroundings. I found this tonal shift jarring, even though the first two issues adopted a bleaker viewpoint. Somehow, it doesn’t work as well in this book and it took me out of the narrative for a bit.
This takes absolutely nothing away from the strength of the story, though. Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson have hit upon a great concept and they run with it. I admit, I was initially concerned about the direction this story would go considering Nadler and Thompson are best known for their body horror work but, fortunately, there is very little grotesquery in this series up until now. Fans of their previous work might find that the writers are walking the straight and narrow here but that tactic works to engage a broader audience.
Kyle Charles’ art is, honestly, excellent. His versatility is evident in the ease with which he brings long-dead celebrities to life, especially with regards to the artists, whose famous works he incorporates into the panels where they are featured.
Charles’ art is made all the more evocative by Dee Cunniffe’s colours. I loved Cunniffe’s work on Eternal and, once again, he steals the show here. We have never seen Hell like this before—each circle has a palette of its own but, there are also interiors, people and artworks that need to be coloured and Cunniffe manages to meet every task with ease. Despite the sad subject-matter of the series, Cunniffe makes it all look beautiful.
Her Infernal Descent is a human story with a fascinating and relatable protagonist and a host of Easter eggs that will have you examining each panel. It is beautiful to look at and manages to transform a well-known setting into something new and relevant to a modern audience. With its underlying mystery adding to the suspense, the story organically propels the reader to wait for the next installment. I cannot wait to see where Lynn will go next and whether she will finally be reunited with the ones she loves.