Review: “The Life After” #1

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There is something alluring about Joshua Hale Fialkov’s new series “The Life After” right from the get go, it might be the gorgeous art from Gabo, a two page spread featuring forty panels, or the breakneck pace of the narrative. Whatever it is, it’s irresistible and confidently introduces you to the strange new world of purgatory.

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WRITTEN BY: Joshua Hale Fialkov

ART BY: Gabo

PUBLISHER: Oni Press

PRICE: $3.99

RELEASE: July 9, 2014

I have a certain respect for debut issues that can survive solely on the merit of the questions they ask. Servicing their story and their audience plagues most comic series debuts. They offer explanations for literally everything. “The Life After” #1 doesn’t have a single answer on the page. Instead we’re thrown headfirst into the world with our protagonist and taken on a visually immersive adventure that has inklings of something more.

There is an element of control to this chaos. Fialkov makes so much clear within the opening page, but he doesn’t over explain it. In fact these little acts of puppeteering actually make the complexity a little less daunting. Someone or something is behind this insanity, and eventually we’ll get to the bottom of it.

For now Gabo does most of the heavy lifting. The script gives plenty of room for heavy bits of voice over narration but the artwork takes the story to dizzying heights. There is such a clash of worlds going on here that Gabo’s style should be frenzied but it never misses the mark.

Instead he offers a seamless clash of every sort of visual inspiration you can think of, co-existing in a mad world where nothing seems to make sense. His character designs are remarkable and varied. The large panels showing off this purgatory world are as impressive as they are complex.

Fialkov wastes no time pulling the story to a head with the introduction of Ernest Hemmingway. A character I wasn’t expecting in the least, but serves as easily one of the most charming parts of the issue. The adventurer is sure to pull our protagonist into a wild journey of discovery, and while the influential writer does offer a lot of exposition, it’s hardly distracting.

What should be a intense concept hardly ever feels that way. While the comic does have some difficult scenes within it, it never feels over indulgent. Instead we’re given a dose of terror amongst all the wonder on the page. Not everything in this world can be wonderful, and knowing Failkov, there is bound to be a whole lot more horror around the corner.

“The Life After” is equal parts whimsical and haunting. It’s brilliantly paced and expertly communicated. This debut issues shows you a world where anything is possible and teases a near limitless scope for the future of the series. As far as first issues go it’s a total knockout.

 

Official Score