There is a quote by English Poet John Milton that states “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”. Well, In nearly a decade, Big Punch Studio’s Jon Lock seems to have taken this notion almost literally as he has created his own Heaven on the brink of Hell as his ongoing series, Afterlife Inc. has evolved through five volumes (and a crossover). Now, to celebrate his 200th review with us at Pipedream Comics, our own James Blundell returns to where his own Small Press journey started to see if Afterlife Inc is still the company you can believe in with its fifth volume: Glory Days.
Publisher: Big Punch Studios
Writer: Jon Lock
Artist: Various, Lucy Lock (Letterer)
Price: £15 at www.bigpunchstudios.com
Jack Fortune and his loyal Board of Directors return in the fifth volume of Afterlife Inc: Glory Days where, during the aftermath of their battles against the Angel Trinity and the Archangel Gabriel, the gang attempt to take stock, heal up and rebuild their heavenly empire. However, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat has come with a cost as the denizens of the Empyrean have begun to question Jack and his monopolistic hold over their afterlives. Now, a new enemy appears whom the company has yet to face; a competitor in the form of the ambitious Arjun Arcadia and his consultancy, White Horse. Unfortunately, while such a relatively low powered opponent might have normally been an easy day for Jack, Nuriel, Lux and co, each finds themselves facing their own demons and injuries in a way that may just result in Afterlife Inc shutting up shop.
Jon Lock’s fifth instalment of his Afterlife Inc. concept is, like it’s predecessors, a fun and enjoyable read. However, unlike with the prior instalments, Glory Days feels like the arc which gives the series more of an overarching narrative as it reads like a bridge between volume 4 and the upcoming sixth volume. As such, Glory Days feels like a culmination of the events of Lifeblood and Man Made God with the characters feeling much more worn down and less energised than they were at the series start. Lock appears to moving into a deeper, heavier form of storytelling as he focuses on concepts like the price of power and the difficulties of enacting change, with followers and enemies alike looking to find and exploit weakness. Lock continues to change this up with a shift in character focus, with Elizabeth taking front and centre, the return of corporate spy RIch Fire in a big way and even a shock departure of one character.
While overall Glory Days is very well written, the cold opening which forms a sort of flashback from before the series even began is a little hard to follow due to slightly confusing dialogue. However, this is a small issue as, no sooner is that scene over, the title returns to its trademark self.
Meanwhile, this instalment utilises a multitude of terrific artists from series regular Jack Tempest to Eimurian Tales scribe Mark Penman, Trolltooth Wars’ Gavin Mitchell and many, many more. As a result, Glory Days is crammed full of gorgeous art styles which are nicely divided between scenes, allowing for each to have the feel of its own separate story. The highlight of these styles has to be Del Borovic’s primarily black and white scene focusing on Elizabeth in the club, which really pops off of the page when contrasting with the limited use of colour (particularly the red). And then there is Lucy Brown-Lock’s turn on the lettering which is another fantastic visual as she utilises numerous lettering styles which not only differentiate the dialogue to confirm who is saying what, but it also adds another visual facet to build on their personalities.
Now with five books (and a crossover) under his belt, Jon Lock’s Afterlife Inc continues to go from strength to strength. With a deep, engrossing story and a myriad of wonderful art filling it’s pages, Glory Days not only builds on what has come before tremendously but also sets up the future to give fans something to eagerly anticipate. While the shareholders within its world may not think so, fans can rest assured that Afterlife Inc is still very much a company, and comic, you can believe in.