Whenever you decide to spend money on some form of entertainment, be it go to the movies, see something on TV, buy a book (digitally nowadays, I imagine!), buy a comic book (ditto), or listen to some music, you invest time and, often, your hard earned cash in the venture.
Your hope is that once you’ve seen/heard/read the material, you’re left at the very least happy and/or satisfied that the time you spent on the work was worth your while.
Of course, there are times things don’t work out that way.
When I was younger, I recalled being blown away by music from certain artists I’d hear on the radio. I would buy their album and come to realize the sole highlight of said album is that song. Likewise, there are countless books, movies, and TV shows I’ve engaged with. Some I realized very quickly weren’t for me and stopped watching/reading them. Others drew me in with their original concept but quickly petered out and, by a few hundred (or so) pages into said novel, I gave up on it.
The worst case scenario, though, has to be reading/watching a movie/TV show/book which really, really draws you in, you savor the material and love what you’re reading/watching… and then the work falls apart at the very end.
I distinctly recall many years ago, 1989 to be precise, breathlessly waiting for James Cameron’s latest sci-fi film, The Abyss, to be released. I was a HUGE fan of James Cameron by that time, loving both The Terminator and Aliens, his previous two films, and felt the man could do no wrong.
Look, The Abyss wasn’t by any stretch a bad film. Not at all! But as one critic whose name is forgotten after all these years stated (and I’m paraphrasing here): The Abyss is like seeing a runner having the run of their life. They’re far ahead of the pack and nearing the finish line. And then, just before reaching it, stumbled and falls.
To me, that summed up The Abyss in a nutshell. A great, great film with an unfortunately murky ending which, even in the eventually released extended version, simply wasn’t all that good.
Which brings me to the Jeff Lemire/Dustin Nguyen comic book series Descender.
I’ve become a big fan of Jeff Lemire’s writing of late. He’s a thoughtful writer who has a deft touch in dealing with many characters/situations and presenting a clear, accessible story that draws you in almost immediately. I haven’t read all his work, but what I have read I’ve loved.
And for most of Descender’s run, I’ve loved what I’ve read. The series, originally released in 32 issues, has been collected in Trade Paperbacks or, if you’re like me, Kindle/Digital editions.
I found them on sale and picked the whole bunch up and I was blown away by what I read. Yeah, there was a point toward the middle of the story where Mr. Lemire devoted perhaps a little too much time to filling in backstory, but overall the story arc, involving a robot boy who awakens after a ten year “sleep” to find a very different universe around him, was fascinating, heartbreaking, exciting, and supremely enjoyable.
As a writer, I can only be jealous of how well Mr. Lemire juggled the many plot threads and his use of foreshadowing and laying down hints to events to come much later on. Terrific, terrific stuff.
But that ending…
We reach this point where all the players finally come together and the stakes couldn’t be higher and we have a resolution of sorts… but are instantly hit with the fact that this is only the first part of a larger work! Worse, the whole thing, at the end, felt rushed, pushed together and then you’re hit with the promise of a second series, called Ascender, which will continue these stories…
Perhaps I’m being unfair here. The story is not done yet so maybe I should hold my fire and wait to see where we go from here.
That doesn’t, however, change the fact that the ending winds up being far more abrupt than you’d like and then, suddenly (SPOILERS!) we’re ten years in the future and we are left hanging as to where almost all the characters -those that survived- are at. In fact, the denouement of the story is essentially a three or four page (sorry, don’t have it handy now) taste of what’s to come and… I just…
32 issues worth of material and while we’re given a sorta/kinda resolution to some of the things involved in the story while many of the secrets remain just that (I don’t want to get into even more spoilers, but we’re still left with no clear understanding of what the machine race that so influenced the story line is about). Further, we’re essentially told “to be continued!”
Again: Maybe I’m being unfair here. I enjoyed so damn much of the book to this point. Perhaps things would have been better if there was more of a sense early on that this would be the first “book” of a “X” numbered book series. Perhaps then the ending wouldn’t have left me so bothered.
Perhaps that’s just me.
Regardless, I’ll be there for Ascender.