Monday 28 November 2016

A.D.: After Death, Book One Review (Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire)

Wow, that sucked – for me A.D. stands for Awfully Disappointed! You’d think with a concept about humans no longer dying and two big name creators like Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire attached, A.D.: After Death would be awesome - nope! Half of it’s not even a comic! Dear me…

Snyder does enjoy being cryptic - you saw it in his Batman run and his Vertigo series The Wake, where he’d throw in puzzling scenes that seemingly didn’t jibe but later on had some significance - that’s what the whole of After Death Book 1 (of 3) feels like.

We don’t find out how humans stopped dying, there’s a bizarre scene where our protagonist, Jonah Cooke, is being attacked by alien plants, and there’s some stuff about a cow somehow being the key to everything before ending at a bunker inside a mountain. Very “Lost”, Mr Snyder, JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof would approve!

Unfortunately it’s not at all engaging. As “out there” as it all seems, these pieces don’t hang well as a narrative so it’s hard to become invested, let alone follow. And then there’s the half of the comic that’s really an illustrated short story - blocks of text in typewriter font accompanied by a Lemire drawing. That’s what really killed my interest in this series. Not because I’m totally averse to this style of comics - although I do read comics as a change of pace to novels/nonfiction - but because the writing is so boring!

Jonah recounts his first memory of his family’s sad Florida vacation and then his parents’ deaths, ironically before whatever happened to stop humans from dying happened. I’ve tried reading Snyder’s short stories before, like his collection Voodoo Heart, and they’re not good - he hasn’t improved with After Death. It reads so self-consciously arty with heavy-handed symbolism and an emphasis on description over plot, dialogue, anything else - the interesting stuff! It’s such wearisome, laboured prose and stops dead any pace to the book – so strange because his comics writing is generally top notch.

I’ve always enjoyed Lemire’s wispy art style though and I still do with After Death. He’s experimenting with gorgeous watercolours to highlight the peculiar weather patterns of the future which look fantastic. The visuals are about the only thing I really liked about this comic.

I guess After Death is a little different from most comics but shouldn’t “being different” be a positive thing rather than a negative? Kudos on the ambitious vision, chaps, but you ended up producing an extremely dull and disjointed comic. I don’t know who the audience would be for After Death but those readers would need to be very patient with a high threshold for tediousness!

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