Pullbox Reviews: Afterlife Inc.- A whole Eternity’s worth of Awesome…

Afterlife, Inc. volume 5: Glory Days

Big Punch Studios

Created & Written by Jon Lock

Letters by Lucy Lock

Art by (ready? Deep breath…)

Cover by Raffaele Ricciardi & V.V. Glass

The afterlife is entering a golden age, but for undead corporation Afterlife Inc. the cracks are starting to show. As Jack Fortune and the board of directors come to terms with recent trauma, a conspiracy is growing that threatens to tear down everything they hold dear.

From the lost final days of the afterlife’s former rulers, to secrets too terrible to remain buried, Afterlife Inc. is about to discover that the higher you build, the further you have to fall.

From the lost final days of the afterlife’s former rulers, to secrets too terrible to remain buried, Afterlife Inc. is about to discover that the higher you build, the further you have to fall.

In the words of Jack Fortune, CEO & founder of Afterlife Inc, “This is not the afterlife you were expecting. 400,000 years of human evolution. 3.8 billion years of life on Earth. Countless conflicting theologies & dreams of the Great Beyond. How could it be?

“Welcome to the Empyrean.” (excerpt from volume 4, Man Made God)

After the Calamity, there was Chaos. With the old administration away from the helm, no one knew what to do or how to move forward. The Afterlife was a mess. Enter fast talking Jack Fortune (favors the brave?) who died only to find himself privy to a brand new world of opportunity. Bringing a new working strategy into the afterlife, Jack stepped up to create something hitherto unheard of! Now, Afterlife Inc. is a brand for the ages… literally, cuz everyone it touches is already dead with nothing less than eternity to look forward to.

Sure, there have been problems… or opportunities… to be dealt with. Attempted hostile takeovers (so many…). Labor disputes. Sparkly vampires (no, really). Through it all, Jack Fortune has been the calm at the center of the storm. Always the smartest guy in the room, or at least the most comfortable with on the fly improvisation, Jack seems to have the answer to every question. Except, maybe, for those that are a little closer to home… Who is Jack Fortune, really, and is he as generous & selfless as he appears to be? Maybe he does have an ulterior motive behind his actions, but there can’t be any doubt that when it comes to retooling Eternity, he is the man for the job. But in face of death cults, ancient vampiric death machines, & rampaging archangels, how long can that last?

Every now & again, I run across- or in some cases have laid lovingly across my desk in the form of an email- a comic that defies convention. In the face of all that is traditional & rote, the story dives into territory thought by some to be heretical. Inherently wrong. Daft, even. Despite all of that, there is the beautifully rare thing, usually the work of many, thrown my way that stands strong against the tide and cries out in one voice, “We will be heard! Or read! Or… whatever… just read the book!”

At its core, Afterlife Inc. is about the willingness & ability to accept that all things change. One can either embrace that spirit, fighting against the complacency of dogmatic thinking, or one can simply duck & cover. That this idea applies equally to people being capable of change is icing on the cake as characters at the front of these stories have to question their beliefs as well as what they thought was their basic nature.

As I read through each volume, I was impressed with the evolving story of Afterlife Inc. It’s a really well-written, thought out title that digs deep into some philosophical & theological tenets while being one of the more entertaining rides being put to print. All respect & regard goes to Jon Lock, the gray matter behind the world of the Empyrean. More than just another representation of Heaven, Lock builds his world on the understanding that in the end, we’re all creatures of spirit. As such, our afterlife, our “Heaven” is whatever we can make it. Over the course of five volumes (and counting, I hope), the Empyrean has become a diverse world, full of unique beings & interesting characters. So full, in fact, that every instalment needs a couple pages devoted to the still growing “dramatis personae” so that I could keep them all straight. Five volumes, the first being a light-hearted romp that lead to the second & to the third… each one doing the job of every sequel by upping the ante for Lock’s merry band of ne’er-do-wells, Afterlife Inc.’s board of directors, and each volume exceeding the world building, the character development, the sheer storytelling of the previous. As far as accomplishments go, what Jon Lock has done here is suitably & not at all ironically miraculous.

Okay, so now’s the part where I like to talk about the artwork… But I’m gonna have to refer you to that list at the top of this article. There are a lot- a LOT- of people who have put their talent into this title, and every single one of them deserves the biggest of cookies & a high five. Kudos all around, Kit Palmer, James Lawrence, Eve Greenwood, Del Borovic, Jack Tempest, Gavin Mitchell, Kris Wozencroft, V.V. Glass, Dean Beattie, Mark Penman, Warwock Fraser-Coombe, Jack Devereaux, Matt Rooke, & Nikki Stu. You’ve all brought your own unique style to a singular work, & you made it all flow. From pages reflecting a more whimsical attitude, to chapters leading us through the darkness at the End of Days, the art clicks to the themes being portrayed. In general, it’s tough to switch through multiple artists in a single story & make it work, but damned if this crew didn’t do it.

Finally, because I always try to give credit where it’s due, the lettering done by Lucy Lock does more than just put a font to Jon’s script. In a story populated by so many characters- angels, demons, rampaging thoughts, & plain old folk- Lucy uses her toolbox to give everyone a voice that stands apart & fits in with the various artistic approaches. Through all of this (oh yeah, I got more words), Lucy STILL manages to keep her dialogue balloons & narrative text boxes from taking over the page, and keeps the fonts readable. I’m sure that it would have been easy to get caught up in the spectacle of the work, to push the lettering into stylized areas that would have been unreadable, or at the very least migraine inducing. I’ve seen it happen before, and it’s never awesome when overblown lettering kills an otherwise great comic.

When I started reading Afterlife Inc. I was worried that if I started right in with a review of volume 1, I’d get a little carried away. I’m not proud, but every now & then I get excited about a title & tend to go a little off the rails with the praise. Keeping that in mind, I determined that I’d hold off on the write up until I had the time to gain some perspective as well as an overview of the entire series. So I’m done, and (talking to you now, Jon Lock) please, sir, I’d like some more… This is a book that defies the idea that indie comics can’t hold up against the larger publishers, that they may start out with creative ideas but tend to drop off in quality fairly quickly. Afterlife Inc. is an outstanding title, start to finish, showing just what can be accomplished with a little faith & a whole lotta dedication.

Final Score: 10+

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3 Comments

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  1. Hey Paul! Just wanna say your writing is amaze-balls!
    Hope you and your crew (Andy, Eric & Greg) have the best best time at C2E2 and please travel home safely so y’all can keep on writing for us. Stay strong and classy out there!

    1. Wow… someone actually reads this stuff? Thanks for the feedback, Penelope.

      (Would this be a review of a review?)

  2. Hey Paul! I just want to say I think your writing is amaze-balls!
    I hope you and your crew have a great time at C2E2 and travel safely so y’all can keep writing for us. Stay strong and classy man!

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