Afterlife Inc. vol. 1: Dying to Tell – Jon Lock

3 out of 5

A fun central idea acts as a valid springboard for a semi-anthology of tales of Afterlife Inc., the re-org of the afterlife, and its organizer, con-man Jack Fortune.

As masterminded by writer Jon Lock, joined by various artists for various shorts set in the various levels of the afterlife – post a ‘Cataclysm,’ which had left the realm in disorder until zipped up with business and sales flair by Fortune, AI gains an edge by not being cynical about the whole thing: one would imagine that the m.o. here would be to malign corporations, but instead, our lead con-man seems redeemed by what he’s doing.  Enjoying the fame and power, for sure, but also seeking to make sure that people get the post-existence that they’re after.

The rotating artists on these short bits are competent, but no one really emerges as the de facto Afterlife designer; indeed, this is very much a volume one, where the backstory is left purposefully mysterious and we just poke and prod at various characters (head of security; a jailer-type; a secretary-type) and have generalisms made about Afterlife Inc.’s structure.  The tone also feels a bit uneven; Lock is aiming for something that can swing between comedy and drama, but neither presentation is sharp enough at this point, especially with one chapter’s dip into politics with a shaded-faced famous person giving their chance to face up to their life’s deeds.  Mixing reality with fiction tends to rub me the wrong way, taking me right out of the story.

The latter half of the collection gains ground as the tales feed into one another, and we’re left with a very definite sense that there are probably some really cool things to come.