By Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo
In the first issue of The Life After, Joshua Hale Fialkov took readers on a really curious journey with a lead character who seemed to be living life on a loop. Despite the book having much more to it than a commentary on succumbing to the doldrums of adulthood and routine, Fialkov and Gabo did a great job capturing that tone and introducing readers to their new lead character. As the book concluded, readers were hit with one reveal or twist after another and The Life After quickly evolved into something rather unique.
Enter Ernest Hemingway. Readers may have met him last issue, but the opening pages and throughout the second issue, Fialkov develops this character into much more than simply a fun insertion. Jude has awoken. He some how found a way to break out of the cycle he had been locked into. Hemingway explains over a few pages that this place,or level as it is referred to by other characters in the series, is for dead people who bit it by suicide. Right there, readers have their first mystery as the lead, Jude, has no recollection of how he came to be there.
Fialkov and Gabo have generated a story that has a lot going on pretty quickly. There is great world building that occurs in the first issue, but it improves in the second. Fialkov has a great sense of using space effectively. As readers get to better know Jude and Hemingway (at least as he is being utilized for this series) through conversation, they also begin to learn more about the circumstances of this world. Blending the characterization with the information about this place certainly reduces any sense of exposition that is occurring. The story also interrupts these conversations with moments that push other plot elements forward. After just two issues, there are a number of mysteries that are developing. Once again, readers get to see that same control room and this time a bit more is hinted at in the time spent there. And with that setting, the story leaves readers with a fantastic teaser that may have just expanded on the gravity and potential for this story immensely.
And then there is this curious ability that Jude seems to have. Hemingway clears up any notion about this being something characters can simply do. Not only is it a curious element of the story, but it also provides the book with its most impressive page of art. Gabo brings a really great tonality to this story. In some ways, his cartooning and coloring strike nice balance to the gravity of a story about characters who are trapped in a place for suicides where many are stuck in a loo reenacting their death for infinity. There is a brightness and levity to Gabo’s visual aesthetic and it keeps the story from becoming too weighed down. At the same time, the art is the perfect complement to the tone that Fialkov strikes through Hemingway as he guides Jude through this very strange new place.
There are a number of unknowns established rather quickly, yet the creative team for The Life After maintains a momentum that is exciting and engaging. With Fialkov’s credentials and strong art from Gabo, this is absolutely a series to watch.