By Jordan Claes
I remember the first time I ever really questioned or attempted to come to terms with death and my own mortality. It was shortly after the passing of my grandfather: I was twenty-five years old, I’d never experienced real loss in my life and for the first time I felt like I truly understood what it was to miss someone. Just little things at first: the intangible, indescribable parts that comprise the whole. I wondered when I’d start to forget his laugh, his scent, the sound of his voice. I felt alone, scared, completely powerless, so I did what most would do in a similar situation: I began to cry. I tell you this not to elicit sympathy but to illustrate a point: that a desire to conquer death doesn’t come from a fear of the unknown or from a power-hungry place with eyes toward eternity: it comes from love and loss.
A.D. After Death tells the tale of a not-so-distant future wherein mankind has eradicated its most inescapable, morbid certainty: death. The story focuses on Jonah Cooke at various points throughout his life as he recounts the memories from his past and the current misgivings of his present. Its many branches twist and weave throughout various subplots, giving us glimpses of specific events but not enough to completely understand their full significance. It’s a novella, diary, and photo album all rolled into one and in this way, it’s unique to nearly every other comic I’ve ever read prior.
In terms of content and dialogue, it’s absolutely immense. To merely call it a comic book would be a disservice and an inaccurate portrayal of its creative merit. Any fan of Scott Snyder knows that creator owned comics are where he really shines, and A.D. After Death is no exception; in fact, it may be his best yet. It feels immensely personal, almost as if Snyder’s recounting stories and instances from his own life, rather than inventing them. In particular, the relationship between Jonah and his mother feels especially true, making it almost impossible for readers not to become introspective and begin contemplating their own familial ties. Not only is it laden with raw human emotion but it possesses an incredible narrative tone interwoven throughout a meticulously structured layout: you’re actually able to see the pages change from being a comic to a short story, to a concrete poem right before your eyes in a truly evocative and transformative way. The art and the script are so complementary I was immediately reminded of my childhood years reading the many works of Roald Dahl, illustrated by the great Quentin Blake. It’s creative amalgamation at it’s best.
Now, cards on the table: I’m a Jeff Lemire fan. His style is like a marriage between the best aspects of Quentin Blake/Shel Silverstein mixed with an intrinsic flair that is all his own. I also grew up only about two hours north of Lemire, so when I see the same dairy-farm-landscape with fields of windmill turbines in the pages of A.D. After Death as I do when I head south on the 402 highway, like any good Canadian boy would, I get a bit choked up. Lemire’s use of watercolors is also nothing short of brilliance: his ability to both emphasize and lighten the purveying emotion in Snyder’s words through color alone is something few artists have the capacity to do. It’s almost as if Lemire isn’t drawing at all but rather he’s expressing; forging an emotional bond between character and script that stays with you long after you’re finished reading.
I read a lot of books, a lot of good books I like to think, written and drawn by creators who I believe to be the best at what they do. Do you know how many of those books I’ve ever re-read out of the literal hundreds that I’ve burned through at this age and stage in my life – maybe five? Seven tops. Do you know the first thing I did after I was done reading A.D. After Death? Flipped to the beginning and started reading again. It’s exciting, intriguing; it’s imagination run wild. I’ve never read a more honest script from Scott Snyder nor have I seen Jeff Lemire be any more…well…Jeff Lemire! This book is a must-read, an instant favorite and a sure contender for Book of the Year.
A.D. After Death Book #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics