Warning: This review contains light spoilers.
Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo’s The Life After is a weird book, and the creative team follow up their stellar first issue with another solid outing. In the year 2014, it is difficult or nearly impossible for creators to come up with a wholly original idea. Even the premise of this title – an afterlife for suicides – has been covered in the 2006 film Wristcutters: A Love Story. Yet Fialkov and Gabo are able to latch onto his premise and fully own it. With unexpected tentacle action, lewd flashbacks, and red-hot monitor watching, The Life After #2 has it all.
Fialkov’s pairing of the hero, Jude, with legendary writer Ernest Hemingway is a stroke of genius. Jude’s confusion about the current situation, combined with the portrayal of Hemingway as an annoyed powder-keg, lends itself to a fair amount of comedy. Allowing readers to latch on from Jude’s perspective enables Fialkov to better explain the world through Hemingway. Later, when new wrinkles in the story are revealed, confusion on the part of Hemingway himself is used to great effect – emphasizing the importance of certain new elements and cluing in readers on the future direction of the title.
The enjoyment derived from Fialkov’s writing can be largely attributed to Gabo’s fantastic artwork. Featuring wonderfully detailed scenery, his layouts and use of space are cinematic. The moments of discovery for Jude present Gabo the opportunity to flex his creative muscles. His use of abstract designs combined with brilliant splashes of color further draw the reader into this world. Gabo also depicts comedy quite well. Hemingway casually walks along across bridge, assisting others in the predestined plunges along the way. Jude’s reaction is of both horror and curiosity. It are moments of humor such as this which enable this series to successfully cull from both gravity and levity.
The layers of the afterlife are peeled back in The Life After #2. Though the budding relationship between Jude and Hemingway are the issue’s primary focus, perhaps the most important sequence occurs in the closing pages. There is clearly something sinister lurking behind the scenes of The Life After assuming the form of a mundane office building security room. It is this nugget of information that is certain to bring readers back.