ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Afterlift,’ TPB

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Afterlift

Afterlift TPB is a Comixology original comic collected in a print format by Dark Horse Comics. Written by Chip Zdarsky with art by Jason Loo. Colours by Paris Alleyne and letters by Aditya Bidikar.

The series follows Janice, a ride-share driver. Worn down by her job, she spends her nights driving customers around the city she lives. But one night, she picks up a new customer, Dumu. Initially pleasant and charming, he asks his new chauffeur to pick up a new passenger. When he collects a red-headed woman, Suzanna, everything changes. Demonic forces pursue the trio as their journey leads them to Hell itself.

The plot is fascinating and brilliantly structured, moving at the speed of a road movie. The comic takes place in a diverse range of locations, but they are spiritual planes of existence instead of Earthly landscapes. Hell is just one of these destinations. Janice’s car is transformed, becoming a chariot fit for high-speed chases. There is a lot of excitement within the issue as it has an action-adventure core. The first huge twist appears within the first chapter and is pivotal to the soul of the comic. Car chases, huge battles, and supernatural abilities all add to the intensity of Afterlift. Both the ending and epilogue are unexpected but fulfilling.

Additionally, there is a sad and tragic tone that lingers throughout the comic. One of the messages that Zdarsky discusses through the characters and dialogue is figuring out one’s place in the world. The fate of Suzanna is the first twist, happening very quickly, and some of the most emotional scenes come from her deciding whether she deserves to stay on Earth. The writer tackles these subjects with grace and intelligence. There are some heartbreaking reveals, some of which leave the audience to decide what happened. 

Something Zdarsky implements within Afterlift TPB is the question of which afterlife the team is traveling through. While angels and demons come from Christianity and Catholicism, there are concepts within the comic with roots in Buddhism. This allows for a wide range of themes to be explored within the subject matter. Alongside the connection to existing religious texts, the demons chasing after the trio have their own codes and rules.

The characters are given stunning dialogue and development, with Janice being the best example. The star of the comic is honest from the start, talking to her clients with ease. When Dumu starts to change in personality, Janice is initially confused. But her inner defiance always comes to her aid, allowing her to bite back against the demons trying to kill her. Her dialogue is filled with cursing, but it is not overused and is effective each time a swear word is uttered. The role of heroine suits her, and she gets many awesome moments within the trials and tribulations before her.

She also has an endearing kindness, particularly towards Suzanna. Suzanna is quiet and meek at the beginning of the book, hiding dark secrets. Her fate terrifies her, but she is accepting of it as well. Her relationship with Janice is earned as their journey intensifies and her strength increases.

All of the demons are fantastic and fun to read. Each of them is evil, but their personalities vary heavily. They have different methods of chasing and securing targets, with abilities and weapons specific to the person using them. They all despise each other too, getting in each other’s way. Their venomous dialogue is the main source of jokes and comedy within the comic; their dark humour forcing chuckles from the readers.

The art is fantastic and dynamic. Every one of the fantastical characters has unique and memorable designs. The landscapes of the areas that the story unveils are unique in their atmospheres. Loo draws the human characters brilliantly, capturing their emotions in a captivating fashion. The detail in the line art allows for exploring moods that are difficult to capture on paper. For example, the delight on the protagonist’s face when she finally gets to eat after a long shift. Or her annoyance at her phone for malfunctioning. Even the two women’s mannerisms are evident, from Suzanna’s slumped, shy posture to Janice’s confidence.

Car chases require significant consideration within comics, and that was achieved in Afterlift TPB. The vehicles are well-designed and carry their own personalities, which is needed in stories where they are so important. In particular, Janice’s car, initially just your standard rideshare vehicle, becomes a character in its own right by the final chapter.  The acting scenes involving the cars are well-choreographed. Impact, motion, and speed are all felt when they happen. The vehicles have different sizes and capabilities, some of them being created by the demons themselves. Horses, monster trucks, and muscle cars all race down the highway after our heroes.  As the c travel further, these chases are less frequent, with sword battles and gunfights taking over. The various weapons on display are fun to see, but they are less exciting than the road rampages. 

The colours are stunning. While the pastel style doesn’t usually allow for reflections and shine on surfaces, Alleyne accomplishes this well. When characters are in the car, driving through the city at dusk and night, the lights from outside breach the interior. This results in a beautiful pink glow being visible on the clothing of the passengers. Suzanna’s red hair is radiant as the colourist uses multiple shades to make it stand out against everything else on the panel. Where fire or street lights are illuminating the darkness, you can nearly feel the warmth they produce.

The lettering is easy and fun to read. Each race has a different word balloon, providing them with a voice. Each SFX stands out from the panel, often depicted in bright pink. But they suit the panel and aren’t intrusive at all.

The back of the book has extensive behind the scenes content. These include script pages, concept art, and colour sketches. They are very insightful regarding the creators’ thoughts on the characters and the designs of the demons.

Afterlift TPB is a soul-searching road trip. It is exciting and filled with action that keeps the plot moving at a fast pace. The art is terrific and energetic, taking us on an ever-changing adventure. But it is the characters within the car that make it powerful. Not the awesome demons with their bombs and swords, but the human women. Their journey involves impossible choices and heartbreaking revelations that threaten to draw tears from the audience. 

Afterlift TPB is available in where comics are sold on February 2, 2021.

Afterlift TPB
4.5

TL;DR

Afterlift is a soul-searching road trip. It is exciting and filled with action that keeps the plot moving at a fast pace. The art is terrific and energetic, taking us on an ever-changing adventure. But it is the characters within the car that make it powerful. Not the awesome demons with their bombs and swords, but the human women. Their journey involves impossible choices and heartbreaking revelations that threaten to draw tears from the audience.