by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo
What else should be expected when the dog is let off his leash? At the end of The Life After #3, The Foreman received permission from God to enter into negotiations with the man downstairs in order to settle the problem of the two rogues messing up everything in purgatory. Certainly, the plot and characters of The Life After have been surprising and exciting thus far, but anticipation for what may come out of these negotiations made waiting for issue four a bit harder than the previous chapters.
There is no questioning whether or not Jude has some special abilities. After cleansing and saving a pile of bodies they stumbled upon inside a mountain, Jude and Hemingway make their way outside only to realize they are somewhere vastly different from where they had entered. This is no longer the sector for individuals who took their own lives. Instead, this section of purgatory is for completely different people. Through some curious conversations from the men in the control room, readers are left to wonder just where the new setting may be. Fialkov’s use of these men as commentary on the events that Jude and Hemingway face has been a very smart and well utilized technique to pair with the ongoing plot. Their comments are able to play for comedy as they callously joke about the different methods of death or other unacceptable life choices used to define and place these souls.
In this issue, in order to figure out just where they may have found themselves, Jude touches one of the men and readers get yet another glimpse at the life of an individual stuck in purgatory. With little to go on, the possibility of what would follow, even if for a brief moment, results in an effective jolt of imagination of what life they are about to see. Fialkov and Gabo then present to the readers the story of a man who makes a tough choice to better his family, even if the actions were not completely innocent. The fallout of these events and the final moments of this glimpse are heavy and bear a harsh reality on the black and white nature of the choices people make in life. There is no rationalizing. While this is not really the focus of the issue, it presents a curious dilemma in the belief system on display. Fialkov does not allow the readers much time to ponder this curiosity as a cleanup crew of seraphim and wraiths approach the two rogues. Before readers are able to witness a grand showdown between a son of God and these agents of the afterlife, the story offers another glimpse, but this one is horrifying. Gabo, in an impressively effective series of panels, depicts the monstrous seraphim encountering and destroying what readers and many may think of when they consider the image of an angel. These “cupids” are dismembered by the seraphim over a few panels. It is unsettling and another reminder that Fialkov and Gabo are not looking to make nice with The Life After.
It is here, just beyond the midpoint of the issue, that the story returns to where the previous issue left its audience and the promise it made. Certain doors should not be opened and they are likely to bring out a force that decides for itself. The Foreman, who is shown sitting at his desk in a very plain office and sharpening pencil after pencil, is suddenly disrupted by a creature from below. The phone call about nearly capturing Jude and Hemingway has come too late and he cannot call off the help he had enlisted. The Consultant, as she calls herself, makes a grand entrance and Gabo’s decision on her general depiction and physicality is both unexpected and fantastic. As with each of the designs by the artist in this book, once again the decision and unveiling of a new character lands rather well and this sequence promises some fantastic stories to come.
But it would be too telegraphed and expected for Fialkov and Gabo to simply deliver on the promise they teased last issue. In the final moments of The Life After #4 the series takes a very unexpected turn, and the possibilities expand yet again. While the first three issues of the book have been fun, the new territory that Fialkov and Gabo touch on in issue four provide insight into just how quickly this premise can grow and it makes the anticipation for the next chapter even greater.