But this isn’t about DC. This is about A.D.: After Death, a book which, for someone like me still riding the wave of those creators I first read years ago, sounds too good to be true. Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, working together, on the same project. Ostensibly, Snyder is credited with writing while Lemire provides the art, though both creators are highly visible in the storytelling at play here. Snyder brings his obsessively encyclopedic anecdotes about science, history, and human motivation, familiar to readers of his output from American Vampire to Batman to The Wake, while Lemire provides his indelible stamp of eerie, incisive desolation, so present in Sweet Tooth or The Underwater Welder or Trillium. Yet A.D.: After Death feels like a whole, not a mélange of its creators’ particular talents.
You may wonder, at this point, why I’ve gotten this far without really saying much about A.D.: After Death itself. I feel like it’s hard to say much without spoiling some of the book’s many surprises. The back cover blurb gives you a tantalizing glimpse at what lies within: Humanity has found the cure for death, but something, somewhere, isn’t right. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode, meticulously studied; Snyder’s prose (for a significant portion of the book is written in prose, given illustration by Lemire’s lines and watercolor) provides many details to unpack, but when the book does shift to a more familiar comic form, it moves quickly, but not without dread. The story is as dark as any that grapple with the concept and meaning of death – even in a world without it – but the moments that stick with me are smaller: sweet, melancholy, funny. A.D.: After Death is dense, but it’s the kind of dense that leaves you feeling rewarded for your efforts.
It’s not flawless. Some moments don’t land; some surprises are a little less than surprising. But it’s very good. This book lies at the intersection of the popular and the innovative: Snyder and Lemire ask questions of the structure of the form just as they ask questions of how we value our time alive. It’s challenging without being crippling, and sobering without being morbid. And I can’t quite get it out of my head.