Jude thought he was just a regular man going through his monotonous life. Every day it was the same thing traffic, boring lunch, working in a cubicle, same TV shows that were never very good. But the day he ventures outside of his norm, going beyond his comfort levels . . . the day he decides to reach out to one of the nameless faces he sees everyday to try to end the melancholy his life has become he wakes up to a new world. It is a world he never realized he was a part of . . . Purgatory.
Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Gabo tell the tale of Jude’s afterlife awakening in the Oni Press collection “The Life After.” The story is a captivating look at preconceived religious notions captured and twisted to fit our modern perceptions. The beauty of the book is that with each chapter the layers of the onion get pulled back and the scope of the story becomes a greater narrative on the meanings of life and how it is lived and the archaic punishments that were conceived as warnings against existing in that life.
Jude does not live alone in purgatory. He is surrounded by millions of others who are not awake to the world they are a part of except for one man, Ernest Hemingway. Fialkov incorporates the famous writer effortlessly into the narrative of the story who serves as tour guide for “The Life After” coming with loads of wit and wisdom. The reasoning for him being a part of purgatory, as well as awake, is a genius aspect of the book.
Gabo’s artwork is full of detail for the world of purgatory. His style helps to establish a lighter tone in and otherwise grim environment. The artwork builds along with the narrative. As you follow Jude’s initial awakening you see his boring life with slight twinges and tweaks that show there is something more at work in the story. This adds a lot of depth to the slowly unraveling world that is coming into focus. The designs of the deities, the angels, and the demons that find their way into the story have the look that gives them the feeling that they belong in the setting that surrounds them.
The lettering of the book is provided by Crank! who gives the letters on the page a stylized look that makes the dialogue feel alive as the narrative unfolds. The letters work as a nice compliment to Gabo’s pictures.
“The Life After” is another stunning example of Fialkov’s gift for building suspense as he builds the world around his protagonist. The incorporation of Hemingway brings the levity that keeps the book from getting too dire but also helps to convey the seriousness of the story. Gabo’s portrayal of how things work in the world around and above Jude and Hemingway give the book a satirical look at religious dogma through great sequential artwork.