by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo
The eighth issue of The Life After focused mostly on Jude and Hemingway as the two characters were brought into Hell-proper and shown around. After Jude turned down a deal with the Devil, Hemingway came rushing back to help him escape. In issue nine, the story focuses on the other cast members who are attempting an infiltration and rescue. Led by Essie, the group coerce the woman from Hell to help them get in. Knowing the risks, the group makes the jump. The Life After manages to continue its streak of incredible entertainment and unpredictability.
Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo have created some unique characters in this story. Whether it be the presentation and depiction of a known creature or something wholly new, some of the most fascinating elements of this story have involved these bizarre creations. After exposing the woman from Hell to the old god, Ometochtli, she and the others were reduced to passive and pleasant individuals who just seemed amazingly content. The transformation was rather hysterical. Unfortunately, when Essie demands the group be brought to hell, the lady’s exposure to the environment undoes any effect that Ometochtli had on her. The moment the group reach this new plane, the woman reverts back to her old self. Already in demon form, the group is immediately in danger and are forced to scatter in this unfamiliar terrain. What follows is an interesting battle between Essie and the Hellspawn. Fialkov, throughout the series, has managed to defy expectations and still keep a firm grasp on the story and universe. Here, the direction of the battle and the capability of the two fighters don’t go quite as one would expect. It is not breaking new ground, yet the decision to take the fight in the direction he does makes for a more interesting story.
The Life After #9 is, as with the eighth issue, one that does not fill out its pages with oddities and insanities as some earlier issues have. Instead, the majority of the issue maintains a somewhat linear format. Though the elements of it and creatures within it would be bizarre and startling to any new readers, those who have been following along will certainly see this issue as one that is mostly routine. This is no way a critique, as it was not one with issue eight. In some ways, the dynamic universe that he and Gabo have created over the first series of issues have allowed the most recent issues to just forward the story without the need for much more expansion on the world. It is so rich and so dense already, that the issues that just move the story forward remain ever interesting and exciting. Gabo brings the issue home, with some interesting writing decisions from Fialkov as the group attempt to escape their capture. It is an amazing sequence that is as bizarre as the best moments in the series thus far. Ometochtli has come out of hiding, to enter Hell and rescue the group. What starts as a pretty cool visual that leaves readers a simple tease to wonder what has happened turns into something rather unique.
The book ends quite abruptly and quite violently. As previously mentioned, Fialkov and Gabo have a way of introducing violent moments into the book without warning. In this issue, such an event occurs twice and each time it is very effective. As the book comes to an end, the story certainly sets itself up for what looks to be a very exciting next few issues. After a good number of setup issues that introduced the world and many elements of the universe, Gabo and Fialkov have spent recent chapters on putting pieces into place for what looks to be a pretty massive clash between sides. With such a rich world to play in, the creators seem to be in a place where almost anything could happen and not only would it fit in the world they have built, but it will likely be things the readers have not seen in books before. That is certainly a unique and impressive place to be and a credit to what Gabo and Fialkov have accomplished with The Life After.