Creator/Writer: Jon Lock
Art: Ash Jackson et al.
COMPENDIUM BOOKS COMPILING bodies of work are handsome favorites these days standing bold on a shelf, or minus printing costs still impressive when loaded in a portable document onscreen to spill colored pages one after another on a long downhill slalom. AFTERLIFE INC. started life in 2007 (see https://afterlife-inc.com/ )as a fun little strip eight pages long easy to insert in the back of a magazine or as time tolled, rolled one after another into a massive six volumes to date, now republished in 2022 in two fat books labelled The Book of Life (376 pages) and The Book of Death (448 pages), with story arcs that eventually lurch into more than a hundred pages each.
Slaloming a digital copy works well. The design is superb.
The friendly cartoon style of artist Ash Jackson in the first story welcomes attention as writer Jon Lock lays out the plot for Afterlife Inc., introducing the main character Jack Fortune, who is something like a hotel concierge. He tells a nervous airline pilot trying to control his out-of-control airplane in the first story that he can relax, no need to save his passengers, they already died and so did he. The pilot relives the last moment of strife, because he wants to. Mr. Fortune advises him to move on to think about what else he might want to do.
This poignant start immediately reminded me of Mark Twain’s story, “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” examining the same theme that heaven lets everyone who makes it there do what they really want for the first time ever, which I remember years ago reading aloud to a dying friend while he drooled approval.
The vision of heaven in Afterlife Inc. is a corporate haven, with skyscraper skylines whenever anything has a shape. Usually events occur on an indistinct background as if the heaven imagined has not quite congealed, except in familiar grimy city scenes and inside offices, and rare visits to nature at a distance as through a window from space. Welcome to the revealed results of our collective imagination.
Artists change throughout, with solid reappearances by Ash Jackson. The diversity of art styles seemed appropriate at first, switching the camera to watch different characters adjust to their own personal afterlife.
Along the way, though, the stories sputter. The blossom in the original motif withers into an afterlife filled with second-hand literary allusions, genre-hopping heroes, and alien robots replaying trite, insubstantial scripts from pop-action culture throughout both books of Life and Death without touching the ether of either condition. The titles are misleading. Very Long Outer Space Bash might be better.
Some sardonic swipes manage to be funny. Yet making heaven so plainly a Christian artefact at this stage in cosmological history is a bit alarming. One finds here seven heavens with a central holiness administration, hellfire, manna, and celestial matrimony with a lost beloved as an ultimate ideal. This is a tongue-in-cheek home for latter-day saints.
Captain Stormfield zoomed through space like a comet thirty years passing many lost souls along the way before he reached a place he took to be heaven and something like a concierge adjustment bureau that might have only been there because It was all he could imagine on his way to the stars. The motif as a seed for poetry and comedy has lovely potential.
[Editor’s note: on 17 May 2022, this title is being released in two hard cover volumes – see https://www.backerkit.com/call_to_action/b3193cfd-5137-419d-b5eb-a7c2cf68f110/landing ]