by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo
Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo have been taking readers on a very strange and incredibly fun ride thus far in The Life After. The series has fused a number of concepts and ideas together including corporate office satire, religion, and even elements that feel partly related to The Matrix or The Truman Show. Then add in a main cast that includes the next son of God and Ernest Hemingway and readers have been treated to blissful insanity for several months now. With issue five, things continue right along that path.
When readers left Jude and Hemingway they had found themselves in some floating chamber, imprisoned and facing the woman Jude thought he had saved. Nettie had been sent away, recognized as a mistake, and she was out for vengeance. In the opening of this fifth issue, readers are able to see just what went on to lead to Nettie’s dismissal. It’s a troubling sequence from the start as Gabo puts her across from what is meant to be her husband. Though it is not quite apparent to Nettie, the man facing her is some gelatinous formation mean to stand in as her husband. As the dream like state begins to unravel in what, Nettie is found to be a mistake and sent away. Gabo, never one to shy away from creating harrowing imagery, renders a few crude beings in this sequence, including an unsettling version of Nettie’s infant daughter and the real version of the doctor who came to visit her. What is most interesting is the flash she is able to see before being transported. All along, Fialkov has been mixing up the afterlife with some computer simulation. It is unclear if this is meant to be an ongoing commentary of some sorts or a grander plot element, but as Nettie sees beyond the illusion, the aspect of this programmed reality grows ever more intriguing.
In what is the best visual sequence of the issue, the flashback comes to a close to find Nettie seated in her floating chamber reflecting on the time she had with her daughter. Fialkov’s simplistic but vivid depiction of a mother’s times spent with her child, the emotions and sensations involved is effective and Gabo’s matching panels are some of his best. Though they are void of any grand creativity by way of a new creature, Gabo perfectly transitions Nettie through a range of emotions and each, as visible on her face, convey her emotions perfectly. Without text, the roller coaster she is navigating in her head as she plays back this experience is spot on and just as effective. What is strange, then, is what follows from here. Despite the unimaginable tragedy Nettie is put through and how she ends the fourth issue, the events that fill the third act of this issue end in a strange way. It will be interesting to see how the situation progresses in future issues, but there does seem to be some disconnect in how some of the story involving Nettie aligns in this issue.
Nevertheless, the chapter continues to be an absolute blast. Not one to miss an issue for the opportunity to comment on cubicle life in a large office or company, Fialkov adds in a quick jab before returning to the massive story on hand. Gabo’s design of the demonic form of The Consultant is fitting of the character, but the human form is even more enjoyable. Introduced as a cool henchman but likely little more, it looks like there will be more for The Consultant in the coming issue. As Fialkov and Gabo bring the issue to a close, the story takes another sharp turn and ends in spectacular fashion. With a number of solid teases under their belts already, the conclusion to The Life After #5 is the best yet and anticipation for the next chapter is at an all-time high. The still-young series from Oni Press just keeps improving.