Ash and Thorn #4 Synopsis (Spoilers!)
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Ash and Thorn #4 is where all the groundwork comes to fruition. We get Lauren (? Laura? The friend?) proving her usefulness. We get our first real intro to the Big Bad, Court, and we find out what the heck a “Battle Biscuit” is. So let’s get into the plot.
At the end of Ash and Thorn #3, Peruvia allied with the demon Court, turning on Lottie in the pursuit of power. We open in media res, with Peruvia about to make good on her desire to destroy Lottie. Lauren finds a vanishing spell in all the books she’s been paging through and gets rid of Peruvia.
The former Guardian meets Court, our Big Bad. We finally learn a bit more about him — a cosmic being who does nothing but devour. He seduces Peruvia into joining his cause: the fact that she’s a Guardian who actually took him up on his offer intrigues him.
Meanwhile, Lauren finds a spellbook for magical baked goods. Rather than injuring herself trying to bludgeon demons, Lottie decides it’s time to play to her strengths and bake up a storm.
I felt Ash and Thorn #3 unraveled a bit, though Ash & Thorn 4 is picking up stream again. I’m glad we learn a bit more about the villain. There are still parts of the worldbuilding that are lacking: how does the magic work? Who are the Guardians? What was the deal with the other Champions? I’m sure we’ll find this next one out, but why did it take so long to uncover Lottie’s powers — and what was her life like before all this? In my review of Ash and Thorn #1
Meanwhile, the art here feels even more rushed than the last issue. Given that the editor’s note for both issues acknowledges that it was sent to the printer right at the deadline, that might explain things.
Ash & Thorn had so much momentum from the first issue, so here’s hoping things get back on track as the story slides into the station for its last two issues.
The Short Stories
One of my favorite parts of Ash and Thorn is that, like all of Ahoys Comics, it includes short fiction at the end (plus recipes from what we now know is Lauren’s spellbook.) This crop was a little less inspired than the past. Martyn Pedler’s “The Redhead” is a breakup story following fantastic proportions. Carol Lay’s “Color” is a timely meditation on what we lose and gain during global pandemics. Kirk Vanderbeek’s “Strike Anywhere” is the ultimate female revenge fantasy — or so he thinks.
Pedler and Vanderbeek’s stories both suffer from the pitfalls of men writing women, perhaps without consulting women first. I found their descriptions of how both these women behaving at the hands of absolute cads somewhat stereotypical — and unrealistic.
In fact, Pedler and Vanderbeek’s descriptions of women running up against the patriarchy end up coming off sexist, though that’s the central conflict in both their stories. (Listen, Vanderbeek — if I was having a hell of a six months, and I am like everyone else on the planet, a dead vibrator would be the least of my worries. But I’m glad that’s you’re way of showing she’s a Liberated Women.)
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