The debut of the three part AD: After Death miniseries is incredibly dense and relatively unconventional, even by Image Comics standards. Partially driven by prose and sectioned off into time displaced narratives, issue one of AD is remarkably interesting, even if it reveals very little about anything besides it’s protagonist. Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire have been two of comics best writers for the last five years and their most recent work on titles like Trillium, The Wake, Descender, Plutonia, Wytches or even AD writer Snyder’s most recent Batman & All Star Batman series; have represented some of the most creatively ambitious works from both creators in their respective careers. Based on it’s opening chapter, AD feels as if it’s going for the same outward trajectory, a tribute to both creative talents imagination and resistance to convention.
The elevator pitch for AD: After Death has always been pretty straight forward; humans find a cure for death and the series is telling it’s story in that future. What that means and what that story amounts to within that is still very much an open question as AD’s opening chapters opts to deep dive inward in exploring the personal history and perspective of the main protagonist. As Scott Snyder has firmly established himself as one of comics best writers, his Achilles heal has remained his impulse to overwrite his character’s exposition. That makes sense on some level as Snyder began his career in prose writing before getting his comics debut on American Vampire. What’s interesting about AD’s functionality is how it circumvents that by having almost half of the book’s central focus on long form prose sections from Snyder. This works incredibly well, partially because Snyder is clearly a gifted prose writer in a way that goes beyond the standard of comics writing or really, genre writing in general, and partially because Jeff Lemire is so effective at making single illustrations per each single page that perfectly exemplifies the written content. In that sense, the prose sections still feel very much like comics in terms of it’s visual narration. Yet AD’s text section are able to convey so much more story then the portions that are strictly comics; mostly because that’s the entire purpose of written prose. The writing of Snyder in these parts is what’s doing the heavy lifting, but Snyder’s inherent strength as a writer with Lemire’s unique skill set as a cartoonist helps make these sections of AD immensely compelling.
Yet while the text pieces certainly constitute the majority of the comics content, the comics section represents some of Lemire’s most impressive cartooning in years. Creating a sort of rural futurist setting, Lemire illustrates lush and sprawling landscapes with incredibly expressive character acting. Not much happens in any part of the book that is purely comics, this isn’t Frank Miller drawing Daredevil fighting Bullseye. But it is stunningly beautiful in it’s heightened naturalism contrasted with a strain of the surreal. It’s all very subtle, but it represents several small evolution’s in Lemire’s style that should be exciting for fans of the creator.
It’s hard to know what to make exactly of AD: After Death #1. It’s certainly unconventional, but not in any way that feel’s like a radical departure for Snyder and Lemire or the medium in general. That’s because while much of AD’s debut is decidedly singular to the book itself, all of it plays to the strengths of Snyder & Lemire. And when you’re talking about comics creators at that level, it’s makes for a debut that is intrinsically special.