The Life After 3 (September 2014)

The Life After #3

Ah, the systems of a human imagined afterlife… such compelling ideas, such boring narrative. Fialkov does have some all right ideas and Gabo does illustrate them well, but The Life After is stumbling.

The protagonist–Jude (still maybe for Jesus, but Fialkov’s waiting)–and his sidekick–Hemingway, who makes references to the Spanish Civil War in about the only subtle thing Fialkov does–walk through purgatory some more. They aren’t exploring, they aren’t searching. They’re wandering. And the comic is a little lost.

Fialkov’s biggest problem as a writer seems to be a lot of good ideas, some really good characterizations and no idea how to marry the two into a narrative. The comic isn’t exactly boring; instead, it’s meandering.

When Fialkov does get to the cliffhanger–after teasing a huge action sequence and then not delivering–it’s decidedly unexciting. Cliffhangers need to be parts of compelling narratives after all.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist and colorist, Gabo; letterer, Crank!; editors, James Lucas Jones and Ari Yarwood; publisher, Oni Press.

The Life After 2 (August 2014)

The Life After #2

Fialkov is keeping his cards covered but it certainly appears one possibility for The Life After is the protagonist is Jesus reincarnated in Limbo to free the souls imprisoned due to their earthly suicides. Or he's the anti-Christ and he's doing just about the same thing.

Or he's just some guy named Jude who's got a freakish monster who runs Limbo for a father. It doesn't really matter because it's Fialkov's pay-off for next issue, not this one.

Other than that hint this issue, however, there's not a lot going on. Limbo's a bad place and the protagonist doesn't like it. He doesn't like it to the degree he keeps interrupting Hemingway (as in Ernest), who is his sidekick, and Fialkov never gets around to revealing some basic details.

The writing's okay and the art's okay, but neither are trying too hard. Especially not Gabo, who tires during complicated sequences.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist and colorist, Gabo; letterer, Crank!; editors, James Lucas Jones and Ari Yarwood; publisher, Oni Press.

The Life After 1 (July 2014)

The Life After #1

What a downer. Not because of the big reveal at the end, but because of how writer Joshua Hale Fialkov compares the mundanity to normal existence to purgatory. For a while, it seems like The Life After is just a gentle Matrix riff, with some often really good art from Gabo. The art's not always great, but it's always competent and the ambitious stuff makes up for the rest.

The way Fialkov handles revealing the truth to the reader–and to his protagonist–is to aggressively force the reader to examine everything he or she has read already in the comic. For the protagonist, it's a different experience. Fialkov juggles the two responsibilities–one to the reader, one to the protagonist–well. Even with a surprising guest star at the end, Life After is grounded.

Without the guest star, the comic could actually just be a one shot. Fialkov's plot construction is very strong.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist and colorist, Gabo; letterer, Crank!; editors, James Lucas Jones and Ari Yarwood; publisher, Oni Press.

Skyman 1 (January 2014)

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Skyman is real close to being in my “why would I want to read this” stack. It’s generally okay. The art is strange–mainstream superhero with angst; it’s unclear if Manuel Garcia isn’t doing enough on the pencils and Bit has to fill in on the inks or if Bit is inking in the Sturm und Drang.

But the art isn’t why Skyman is unpleasant. Joshua Hale Fialkov–presumably under instruction (I didn’t realize Skyman was actually part of some existing superhero continuity)–is doing a lot with race. Racist white guys in the military, about a week from staging a Neo-Nazi coup–these are all the white guys in the military, by the way–give hell to the nation’s official superhero, who’s a black guy.

So it’s mostly Skyman’s supervisor being sneakily racist and not-so sneakily racist around him. It’s cynical and realistic. But why read it?

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; penciller, Manuel Garcia; inker, Bit; colorist, Marta Martínez García; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Spencer Cushing and Jim Gibbons; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Bunker 4 (6 November 2013)

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This issue reads distressingly fast. Without even establishing the character he’s focusing on, Fialkov skips to the future. He might just open in the future. He definitely doesn’t establish the letter from the future angle well enough. Something about how he’s telling the story, it just doesn’t seem like a letter. Maybe because every couple pages he’s jumping a year into the future.

The future stuff is vaguely interesting, but it’s all exposition. Fialkov hasn’t actually moved the story ahead–in its present action–from the previous issue. Maybe previous two. They’re all tied together, which would be awesome if he sold it to television, but in print he’s just dragging things out.

He’s also weak in his character relationships. None of these people are believable as friends. He doesn’t write them with any history.

It’s still an okay read, with nice art, but it’s crumbling only four issues in.

CREDITS

Growth; writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist, Joe Infurnari; publisher, Hoarse and Buggy Productions.

The Bunker 3 (2 October 2013)

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In this issue, Fialkov gives the first sustained look at life in the post-apocalyptic world the main cast creates. There’s not a lot, mostly because Fialkov wants to keep a big reveal (but it’s not really important so far) for the last scene. So there are bits and pieces and Infurnari does something really cool with how he transitions through time. He goes from lots of detail to a sketch, then into the new time period. It’s neat.

Sadly, the future stuff is the only interesting thing. Once Fialkov got the ball rolling on the series, the characters and their petty post-college interactions get boring. It’s not funny anymore, especially with Fialkov structuring each issue as a letter to a character from his or her future self.

It’s not a bad issue, but Fialkov isn’t trying to sell the concept anymore. It’s way too soon to stop selling.

CREDITS

We Did the Right Thing.; writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist, Joe Infurnari; publisher, Hoarse and Buggy Productions.

The Bunker 2 (4 September 2013)

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For the second issue, which is really mostly flashbacks structured around one of the character’s letter from her future self and talking heads scenes, Fialkov goes really dark. The flashback is darker than the present day stuff, but the present day stuff has these moments of intense, unexpected violence.

He even takes it further, bringing the three time periods (the letter, written in the future, talking about the past, being read in the present) all together for a huge emotional finale. What’s strange is how well he writes the two female characters, but not so much with the guys. They’re effective–those intense violent outbursts–but they don’t have any depth.

The protagonist of this issue, even with her future self narrating, manages to surprise with depth, but so does the other girl in the cast.

Infurnari continues to be well-suited for the art. It’s all quiet, no flash.

CREDITS

No One Knows But Me…; writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist, Joe Infurnari; publisher, Hoarse and Buggy Productions.

The Bunker 1 (4 August 2013)

TBEp1Coverweb 600x450

Where to start with The Bunker. First, I guess Joe Infurnari’s art. It’s a really neat mix of comedic and post-apocalyptic. Wonderful ink washes. And Infurnari really uses the “widescreen” format well (it’s a digital exclusive so he’s drawing for tablet proportions).

Joshua Hale Fialkov tends to overwrite the issue. He uses a letter (from the future) along side the cast finding said letter–and the titular bunker–throughout the issue. There’s a big revelation at the end, which is fine, but the letter does get tedious. It also means there’s no way to know where Fialkov’s going; presumably each issue won’t have a letter. Hopefully, anyway.

The dialogue’s quite good and Fialkov and Infurnari establish the characters well. There are some pop culture references I really didn’t get (“Lost” maybe), but they pass easily.

This first issue seems self-contained. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next.

CREDITS

Time Capsule; writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist, Joe Infurnari; publisher, Hoarse and Buggy Productions.

I, Vampire 3 (January 2012)

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Sorrentino’s artwork is so good on I, Vampire, it makes one want to like the comic more than one should.

Fialkov has a couple nice little details here–he introduces this teenage girl who hunts vampires and, while it’s not just derivative in essence of “Buffy” but also Kick-Ass a little, he does it well. Unfortunately, these two good moments come amidst some terrible writing.

This issue, Fialkov introduces the protagonist’s best friend. Only, the best friend is now the protagonist and Andrew Bennett (the “I” in I, Vampire) is now the subject. And the best friend’s narration is awful.

It’s awful enough to be funny and homoerotic enough to be interesting. Is DC quietly trying to launch a gay Twilight? Or did Fialkov just learn how to write male narration from Jeph Loeb.

Either way, Sorrentino gets to draw a variety of things. The art saves the comic.

CREDITS

Numb; writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov; artist, Andrea Sorrentino; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

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