REVIEW: Her Infernal Descent #3 by Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson, Kyle Charles, Dee Cunniffe, & Ryan Ferrier

By Zack QuaintanceHer Infernal Descent is the story of Lynn, a mother literally marching through hell in search of her recently-deceased family. Put simply, it's one unique comic. A loose retelling of Dante’s Inferno, it stars a fairly typical mom plus a host of dead celebrities, from Jimi Hendrix to Homer (Odyssey not Simpson) to Kafka, ironically serving as a judge.

This issue is three of five, and in it, the qualities that made the first two installments so interesting have been upped: dry humor, surreal encounters with departed artists, and the melancholy motivating Lynn to traverse literal hell. There’s quite a bit to be impressed with, both holistically as well as within this singular issue, but let’s start with the writing.

The duo of Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson are on the rise, catching much buzz with their work on Marvel’s Cable, taking over Valiant's Bloodshot, and writing the excellent body horror book Come Into Me. Although it’s early in their careers to brand them with a regular motif, I’d still say this book seems like a departure, at once under and overstated—understated with its characterization of Lynn and overstated with the absurd hell unfolding around her.

The cover of Her Infernal Descent #3 is an excellent summation of what this book's art does so well, juxtaposing the protagonist's outward normalcy with her madcap and macabre surroundings.

The mom-ness of our hero is so well done, especially in interactions with deceased members of the intelligentsia. She’s unimpressed but tolerant of William Blake yet thrilled to meet Agatha Christie. When Andy Warhol tells her he’s trying to be nice, she replies Try harder. She uses old school mom-typical expressions like Hey buster, Oh for Pete’s sake, or ...that time I smoked the danged reefer. Obviously these writers aren’t mothers, but they seem to be working hard to see and convey their own moms' perspectives. The result is a character who is utterly relatable.

The real heart of the book, however, is Lynn's regret over her lost loved ones. In this issue, hellions try to torture her with her own memories in a poignant spread that nearly brought me to tears. We also see Lynn recall that normal life had perhaps pushed her to drinking. Like the earlier charm, these tragedies are never belabored, and that's a credit to the scripting.

The visuals, of course, also deserve much credit. Kyle Charles and Dee Cunniffe are a versatile team, capable of both quiet emotions and of depicting hell. They bounce between these modes, often integrating them into shared environs. The cover to issue three is a great example. We see Lynn with her practical haircut and dress navigating a labyrinth of the macabre. Within this cover, Charles and Cunniffe so thoroughly convey her driving mission so well that ifI think about it too long I’ll get emotional.

On that note, I’ll conclude by noting this book is built to hurt your heart, badly, the moment she reunites with her family, and I for one am there for the devastation.

Overall: In Her Infernal Descent #3, the qualities that make this comic so enthralling are ratcheted up, resulting in the best issue yet. This is a literary comic of the highest order, a well-constructed story rich with melancholic moments, intelligentsia in-jokes, and a layer of subtle charm. 9.0/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.