The Life After, a new series from Oni Press, is one with a high concept and wild ideas. Just what are those concepts and ideas? I don’t think I know, but I’ll do my best to explain in the following review.
Previously in The Life After: New series!
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE LIFE AFTER
The Life After #1 is a very original, smart and unique comic. It just may be too original, smart and unique for its own good, and that’s a great thing. A man (who is never named) trudges through life doing the same thing day in, day out. The day he tries to change his routine, his world is thrown upside down and he begins seeing the way people have died. More specifically, how they’ve killed themselves. Soon he realizes he may not be alive himself.
That’s the story extremely condensed. Joshua Hale Fialkov writes a story that had me questioning just what was happening to the main character as much as he himself. There are only two pages in the whole book where I wasn’t wondering what the hell was going on. I felt like I was on some kind of drugs while reading. It was both frustrating and compelling but by the end reveal, all…well most, became clear. The inner monologue is well written and you really feel for the character. Fialkov is the best at the beginning as the protagonist details his mundane day and its repetitiveness. Readers who’ve had a nine to five office job will definitely relate to the character as well as those “Why don’t I change?” thoughts. All the characters have emotions that are realistic for their situations. Suicide is a sensitive topic and Fialkov does his best to handle it appropriately, though there are instances that will turn people off. The violent imagery will be upsetting for those who’ve had suicide affect their lives. My other main concern is that The Life After is so perplexing that it will alienate. Readers who don’t like being confused or know where a story is heading will likely not return for issue two. That would be unfortunate because I think The Life After will prove to be a cool little comic.
SOME SQUINTING MAY BE NEEDED
Beyond having an awesome name, artist Gabo (aka Gabriel Bautista) has a very defined style that won’t suit everyone. Characters and faces looked warped at times but it is all intentional. It makes sense that the unconventional story would have unconventional art. At times it works but it does work against itself as well. In one scene there is a flashback of a woman but she looks so different from previous page, I was unaware it was her. Panel size is the art’s biggest weakness. Some are so tiny that it is extremely difficult to make out everything that is taking place. Add the stylistic art choices on top and it makes some very unclear moments.
BOTTOM LINE: GO OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
The Life After #1 is a difficult read. There is nothing inherently bad about it, in fact there are lots of good ideas. The problem is the way the story is told will frustrate readers and those looking for an easy read will be walk away. I enjoyed myself even if confused most of the way (I’m still befuddled on some things). If you can go outside your comfort zone and try an unconventional book, The Life After may be a good choice.