Answers are inherently part of storytelling. It’s the payoff, the climax, the big reveal that makes the journey that much sweeter. Due to how many questions I have after reading the first two installments of A.D. After Death I would say answers are a required facet of this final part.
And yet they aren’t either. That’s in part due to the dreamlike art and prose that seem to lift up small moments and big ideas in ways conventional comic book storytelling can’t do. That’s what makes this series feel experimental, fresh, and above all else more interesting than most books these days. It should be noted this is a spoiler free review so carry on without worry!
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
MINI-SERIES FINALE Jonah Cooke is on the run from a future he helped create, a future where death has been genetically cured. Yet he’s finally come to accept that no matter how long he lives, he’ll never escape his past. And now he’s done the one thing that may put everyone left alive in jeopardy. The shocking conclusion of the sci-fi epic by two of comics’ most acclaimed creators is here.
Why does this book matter?
Aside from Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire delivering a new kind of comic book (if you can call it a “comic book”) there are also deeply meaningful ideas and postulations in this work. It’s the kind of book you might read over and over, return to years later, or think deeply about.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
An interesting idea.
To answer my introduction about answers, yes this book has many answers. In fact, I would wager it ties things up quite nicely. It may not do so right out of the gate, but by the end you’ll have more satisfaction in understanding what is going on than you’ve ever had reading the first to volumes. Hell, the astronauts I was annoyed about last issue are even given a bit of an explanation. As if the structure of this work was meant to impart meaning, Snyder and Lemire stick even more prose into this volume, at least to start. There are brief interludes of art from Lemire, the single drawing across double pages of watercolor and prose, but by my count the first 30 or so pages is mostly prose. This ended up being a trial of patience, but also a way to inform the reader to relax and settle down. As we learn more about the mysterious girl, how eternal life was achieved, and more we’re privy to a slow moving and dreamlike narrative. To its credit this work never betrays itself nor inserts a twist or turn to satisfy the reader. It’s true to itself and because of that made stronger for it.
Once again there’s a dream like wonderment to this work that’s hard to find anywhere else. As this issue calls back to previous elements it does so in a way that suggests we truly are reading a man’s last journal. That gives the book a sort of excitement, because as we get closer to its end we learn new details about the journal we’re reading itself. The final pages do a great job at furthering the bizarre nature of the story, which is a good thing considering much of the answers clear the table of the weirdness introduced in previous issues.
There’s plenty of interesting ideas throughout this volume much like the previous issues. The book opens with an interesting idea about color and there are paragraphs throughout you’ll want to read more than once to allow them to wash over you. In fact, there’s a lot of factoids and concepts in this issue that read like Snyder may have spent ages researching to get them right. That’s a neat element and it certainly makes the work feel more valuable.
Though I keep comparing this work to a dream there are action packed moments. Lemire gets to draw a scene that’s a shock to the protagonist Jonah and the reader, which helps amp up your adrenaline after getting cozy with the prose. Cleverly, Snyder works in two new elements for Jonah to steal, which add a level of action and intensity to the more contemplative portions. Truth be told, over half of this book is without prose and instead has conventional art and dialogue, though the opening is particularly sparse. Lemire’s art in these pages is well thought out, from a double page layout of Jonah walking into the distance (which helps convey time) to the inventive creatures that pop up there’s a lot to enjoy. The watercolor and thin line impart a realism that helps bring this book into a realm of memory or dream that suits the prose well.
The purple smoke will kill you all!
It can’t be perfect can it?
Maybe I’m an impatient reader, but I found myself fighting to get through the first 30 pages. Much of these pages are prose with a bit of art, but the prose didn’t seem to give enough to warrant interest in Jonah’s life. This is in part because the meaning behind these stories come later in the book. Once those answer arrive and you finish that impatience goes away, especially when the book picks up halfway through, but the story relies too heavily on the prose in these first 30 pages. They seem denser and seem to go off on tangents that aren’t pertinent to Jonah’s story or the story as a whole. This portion focus in on a person Jonah is hellbent on saving, who at this point we barely know, and this makes their introduction seem too little too late. This could be a case where, when read in its entirety, the issue goes away, but reading this third volume certainly crawls.
Is It Good?
I wasn’t sure how or even if Lemire and Snyder could wrap this story up, especially when I was still searching for answers midway through this volume. I can safely say, though, that this is a satisfying conclusion, with compelling ideas throughout the volume. The very structure and format of this book is part of the story, which is saying something in this day and age. This is a dreamlike work that’s introspective and compelling if you’re interested in thinking about the world. Most importantly there are answers, a satisfying conclusion, and a work that feels cohesive. Much like the greatest graphic novels, A.D.: After Death Vol. 3 will be a book you’ll return to for years to come.