Best Foot Forward features outstanding comics that create an amazing, memorable, and impactful first issue.
Written By: Scott Snyder
Art By: Jeff Lemire
Published: November 16, 2016 by Image Comics
Welcome one and all to another installment of “Best Foot Forward.” This is a featured blog post wherein I discuss books that absolutely knock me over with their first issue. I bring this up only because, with this book, I planned on writing this long before I even read the first issue. That’s right, I knew, without a single solitary doubt, that I would be all over this book. Why? Well, for starters, I’m only slightly obsessed with Scott Snyder’s work. I admire his work, have studied his style, and respect the heck out of him as a writer. Basically, if he writes an indie/small press book it’s going to make it onto this blog. Secondly, Jeff Lemire is the artist on this thing. What? You mean the same guy who writes Black Hammer, which is a book I’m absolutely crazy over. Yup, that guy. What we have here is A.D.: After Death Book 1, and let me tell you, this book is amaze-balls.
For this Best Foot Forward, I’m going to be doing something a little different. Normally, I read through the book, usually re-read it a couple times, allow myself to process the greatness of what I read, then clickity-clack out a blog post. For this book however, I’m going to be writing as I read through the book. Well, sort of, I’m not going to be writing and reading at the same time because my brain would explode if I even attempted that. Instead, what I’m going to do is write about my experience with this book as it happens. As things catch my eye, or jog some sort of emotion, I want to capture the immediate thoughts and feelings as they happen. Maybe this will suck, maybe it will be fun, who knows, but in either case it’s going to be an experiment, so lets get to it.
Pages 1-8: Okay, I’m only eight pages in, and holy crap, so much has already happened. Right off the bat, I’m talking page one, I was taken back by the layout. This starts off unlike most of its comic siblings. Normally we experience a splash page, or even a few panels on page one, however, with AD we’re starting off in more of a storybook mode. What I mean by storybook is that it’s mostly words, with a single framing image. Then over the course of the next few pages we’re given far more story than artwork. Immediately the feel and tone of this book are set by doing this.
There’s a serious sense, almost a dark, maybe overshadowed feeling that while the story is telling a fun story, things aren’t going to stay that way. Also, by starting this book off with more focus on the written story than the artwork, I was pulled into it much differently than a normal comic. In this case I was drawn into the story because I was reading what felt like a journal from one of the characters. Like I was sort of catching a glimpse into something I wasn’t supposed to be reading.
We’re following this childhood memory of one the characters as he, and his family, took a trip to Florida. You get the sense from this memory that it wasn’t under the most pleasant of circumstances, but also that it was meant to be a happy trip. We end up following this family as they go on an adventure to chase down a green balloon with a note on it, and what follows really solidifies the tone I felt from the first page.
Pages 9-26: What the heck is happening in this book? I’ve gone from a very dark childhood memory of a young boy to monsters hunting down someone. Then I was shifted into some sort of valley where people, who may or may not be living forever are caring for cows. Yes, you read that correctly…possibly immortal people are working on a cow farm. Now, don’t misread that, these aren’t immortals like we normally see immortals. There isn’t any sense of benevolence in any of these people. Imagine your run-of-the-mill person, heck, think of a stereotypical farmer…that never dies, and apparently doesn’t care.
While that might sound confusing, allow me to inject that the emotion and tone of this book are being setup wonderfully. I’m only about half way through this book, which is why, I believe, the confusion is hitting a high point. I feel like I’m being walked through this confusing moment in order to build my emotions and intrigue.
As a reader, I know there’s another twenty or more pages left in this story. So feeling the confusion at this point is building my intrigue into the world and characters. There’s enough pages left that I’m hoping I’ll get answers by the time I reach the end, or at the very least enough information to keep me going into the next issue.
For now I’ve been given a character to follow, Jonah Cooke. This is the guy who I mentioned was getting attacked by monsters, and I believe it’s the same guy that ends up on this immortal run cow farm. I’m not certain it’s the same guy, but from what I’ve gathered, that childhood story may be from this guy’s past. Also, I’m getting the feeling that Jonah didn’t survive the monster attack, and what I thought was an immortal cow farm may instead be some sort of afterlife, which explain the immortality…or whatever you call not dying after you die.
One thing is certain at this point: I am hooked and want to know more.
Pages 27-End: Well, let me finish off by saying this book has me hooked so deep with intrigue that it’s going on my pull list right after I write this. Due to the format of this blog post, I don’t want to sit with the story too long before I write out how I feel. I’m not positive where to start so I’ll go with some technical stuff first.
We switched back to what I’m now calling storybook mode for about ten pages, before comic book mode engaged. During those ten pages of storybook we’re given another story, from Jonah, about a time in his teens when he stole something. This is preceded by a single page wherein we, the readers, are given this moment, presented by Jonah where something completely odd took place. A moment, it appears, when death started to creep over the Earth. He relates his story of theft to this story of death, by linking them together with the idea that death steals from us all.
Jumping into the comic mode I’m now far less convinced that what I thought was the afterlife is actually that. Instead, I get the feeling that some sort of experiment, or natural disaster took place, killing off most of the world’s population, however in that, it also left people immortal.
There’s more than a little hint that Jonah had something to do with most of the world dying, or at the very least, he’s attempting to fix it…how you fix something like that, I have no clue, but it sure looks like our boy Jonah has a plan.
We’re also given this moment between Jonah and another character, a girl Jonah’s familiar with, and on this interaction we’re given a most interesting bit of information. This girl mentions that she’s being transferred to some new place, and that by the time her and Jonah cross paths again she won’t know who he is anymore. I don’t know if that’s just because they live forever so she’ll eventually forget him, or because of something else entirely, but I’m leaning towards the latter because of the tone given in this book.
Summary: This book was great. I was not given all the information I wanted, however, Snyder and Lemire do such a good job at delivering tone and feeling that I was satisfied with knowing this book is meant to be more of a thriller/suspense story than a pedal-to-the-floor book. Lemire’s art does amazing things alongside Snyder’s writing, and the two of them have delivered one heck of a suspense comic. I can’t recommend this enough…go check it out, this is going to be one of those books that does everything different but in all the best ways.