Enormous rabbits and an eyeless ninja keep The Life After #6 as strange as the previous five installments. Is it good?
The Life After (Oni Press)
Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo take a step back in time to open the new arc; unfortunately it does not catch or grab your attention especially if you are just jumping into the series. It is a rather dull conversation on rebuilding the Afterlife, but this time they will use computers! Thankfully, Fialkov injects some bureaucratic humor in the next two pages.
The humor continues throughout the issue whether it is Jude using a counting rhyme, Hemingway lamenting certain actions he is unable to perform in the Afterlife, or the Consultant’s reaction to an enormous rabbit. Nothing gets one giggling like “Holy f-----g balls.” Gabo really sells the Consultant, drawing her in demonic form with a very human “surprise” face, jaw hanging wide open.
Gabo continues to impress with not only the amount but the diversity of monsters and creatures he is drawing. On one full page spread he has thirty different creatures ranging from a cyclopean slime to a square-headed humanoid and everything in between. Tom Foreman’s secretary is especially interesting with a water buffalo head, a pretty purplish pink bow in her air, and an almost mechanical pink torso.
Gabo also does a good job of creating contrast with his colors keeping your focus primarily in the foreground. It is especially effective when Jude encounters the Reapers. The Reapers are purplish phantasms outlined in white. They are placed on top of a dark grey background effectively popping them off the page and catching your eye immediately in every panel in which they appear.
The art may be eye-popping, but despite the excellent use of comedic relief the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Fialkov uses the same plot technique twice in the same issue! During the first attempt the dialogue between Jude and Nettie is absolutely horrific, from commenting on the rate of descent and then transitioning to Hemingway being the greatest novelist. However, there is some solid writing with the aforementioned humor, and there is also the dialogue with Tom Foreman and his counterpart Albert which pique your curiosity to learn more about how the Afterlife functions. Another factor missing in this issue is a lack of transitions between different storylines. The book lacks rhythm and flow.
Speaking of flow, there is one page where the panels do not add up. On the top of the page a ninja is lurking on the ceiling of the cave above the main characters, but the middle panel depicts one ninja giving instructions to several others to keep tabs on Jude, Hemingway, and Nettie. The next panel shows our ninja who was creeping on the ceiling confirming the orders and running through an empty passage. Really not sure how he got back to receive his orders when he was literally directly above the main characters not one panel back.
The book ends in a very contrived fashion. Unlike the previous issue where Nettie’s emotions felt raw and real, her emotions feel forced and almost fake. Everyone has seen the family reunions with the returning soldiers; the emotion those families express is completely lacking in Nettie.
Is It Good?
The Life After #6 excels with its comedic humor, intriguing artwork, and monster creation, but these factors do not make up for its numerous shortcomings: subpar dialogue, lack of character emotion, poor or absent transitions, and lack of flow in a number of a panels. This opening issue to the new arc failed to live up to expectations set in the previous five issues. Hopefully, Fialkov and Gabo are able to move forward and continue to produce what we have come to expect.