Arguably the most anticipated release of the year, Snyder and Lemire’s first collaboration as writer and artist more than lives up to the hype. An instant classic of science-fiction, transcending medium and genre, with its resonant exploration of all the big themes we can’t help but care about most: life, death, and the journey in-between.
Imagine a world in which humankind has cured death. What would that mean in practical terms? How would we live our lives? How would we spend eternity? How would it change the way we interact with each other – our friends and loved ones, our family? Would families as we know them even exist?
These are just a few questions clinging to the tip of the thematic iceberg found in Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s A.D.: After Death. A gorgeously illustrated, emotionally resonant exploration of all those big themes we can’t seem to get enough of, the series revolves around the discovery of a cure for death and one man’s quest to uncover what this really means for human development.
This first chapter is all about world-building, with actual plot points few and far between. Snyder (Batman, Wytches) returns to his prose roots for extended passages designed to take the reader on emotionally intense journey through protagonist Jonah Cooke’s inner world. It’s a psychological landscape of jagged peaks and valleys that seems to draw upon Snyder’s well-documented struggle with anxiety and depression. Jonah’s childhood is fraught with life-altering emotional touchstones that continue to inform his behaviour eight centuries later.
The prose passages are exquisite, tightly wound windows into Jonah’s tragic past and unravelling future. Unable to disconnect himself from the memories of his childhood, of his family, Jonah seems content to plodding through eternity as the secret curator of collection of stolen artifacts from throughout history.
Much of the world-building finds expression through Lemire’s gorgeous watercolours. His style is so unique and idiosyncratic, it probably shouldn’t resonate with readers so easily. Yet somehow Lemire’s artwork consistently registers with his audience on a visceral level, a barely contained intensity simmering beneath the jagged lines and lurid colours of each panel.
His visual storytelling entrances the reader, drawing them into the world of the series with panoramic establishing shots and dynamic page layouts. Despite numerous extended prose passages and a huge page count, reader fatigue is never an issue, thanks to Lemire’s smooth pacing and lush illustrations.
With the plot only just unfolding after a chapter dedicated to laying down a solid foundation of deep character development and layered world-building, it will be interesting to see where Snyder and Lemire take their sci-fi epic in subsequent chapters.
Scott Snyder (W), Jeff Lemire (A) • Image Comics, $5.99