Forget everything you’ve ever heard about what happens after death. There is no heaven; there is no hell; there isn’t even oblivion. There is only the Afterlife, a horrible wasteland of nothingness filled with every human being who ever lived. Thaddeus and Mercutio are two of the guardians of the Afterlife, a mixed bag of souls fighting desperately to keep demons from destroying everything. But Mercutio is distracted by the search for his lost love and Thaddeus is consumed by the desire to discover the secrets of life and death. A mysterious girl will change everything when she begins asking questions about a rumored gate which might lead to a way out of the Afterlife. Hayes and Steen’s first volume is not an uplifting title, but it skillfully drags the reader along with the story right up to the loose ending, which offers a promise of more to come. Their world is bleak and harsh. The dead look the way they looked when they died: some with heads severed from bodies or limbs missing, others pristine and perfect. Thaddeus, with a hole through his skull, and Mercutio, who died in a fire, are particularly gruesome, but they are also very sympathetic characters. The religion, or rather the lack of religion, is a strong element and the creators don’t pander to any common belief system. The story is well-thought out, never rushed, and expects the reader to think, a nice touch in any work. To further that end, there are cameos by famous and infamous people, most of whom are explained in the back of the book. This book is a good choice for more mature readers, though it isn’t as graphic as it could be considering the subject matter, and it leaves the reader eager for the next volume.

Afterlife, vol. 1
By Stormcrow Hayes, Art by Rob Steen
ISBN: 9781598166927
Tokyopop, 2006

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