Friday, 15 November 2013

Afterlife Inc. Vol. 3: Lifeblood Advance Review

I received an email a couple of days back from Jon Lock, an awesome writer/creator whom I had first met back in May at the Bristol Expo, asking me if I would be interested in reading an advance copy of his new title, Afterlife Inc Volume 3: Lifeblood, the previous two volumes of which I'd really enjoyed immensely (See my thoughts on those here).

Obviously, I couldn't say yes fast enough!!!

Lifeblood, the third volume of Jon's terrific Afterlife Inc. series, brings about the return of Jack Fortune, App, Nuriel and rest of the gang for another action packed adventure that comes about as they continue to run their heavenly enterprise. This time round, as Jack is putting plans in place to make living in heaven easier and more efficient to all (and causing friction with other board members in the process), the company you can believe in is finding itself at odds, underprepared and overwhelmed with a new cult emerging on the fringes of Empyrean, one which may just have links an ancient evil that none of the board expected, and might not survive.

And so, once again, I let my mind be taken on the ride of a lifetime, just as this books foreword tells you to expect. Lifeblood, like it's predecessors, is a tour de force of a story that plunges you at break neck speeds through an epic location and equally epic event. From the second I picked this up, I just couldn't put it down and I was gripped by every twist, turn, funny quip and brutal fight scene that could be thrown at me. With every panel beautiful and every character charming, the only upsetting thing for me about the entire reading experience came about when I reached the end, knowing I had no story left to follow after that final page.
Based on his last two volumes, I think that Jon Lock is a truly terrific writer but with Lifeblood It is possible that he's excelled himself. This is quite possibly his masterpiece, with each character seeming so alive in his writing, the story flows beautifully with an almost flawless pacing. There is no sluggishness to this book, no clunkiness in its text, I couldn't pull myself away from this book and not once did it struggle to keep my attention. This title's writing is truly brilliant and, I think, could go toe-to-toe with almost any work of any big name writer going. In fact, If there is one downside to this book it's that not all the main cast get enough screentime, with Temp and Nuriel losing out here. However, with a main cast of eight characters and 75% of them having major parts in the story, it's a flaw that can be easily forgiven (though really like reading Nuriel).

As for the art, well what else can I say, I still loved it!! Ash Jackson, Nathan Ashworth and Taz Ashworth have once again excelled themselves with fantastically vibrant colours and each panel displaying so much detail. Much like the writing, the art has evolved as, while it continues to embody the Templesmith-esque style it now pulls off a rather more retro look. This is possibly due to richer detail, though helped by the colours, which are far more bold than in the previous volumes, greatly enhancing the visuals throughout. Again like the writing, the art in the last two arcs was amazing, but with this volume it feels as though it has reached perfection.

When I read volumes one and two, I said that Afterlife Inc. was a series you could believe in. However, after reading volume three I have far greater belief in that statement. Jon Lock told when I first met him that his plan was for three volumes and, if that's the case, this is a fantastic finale to what is quite possibly one of the best series I've read, I could wish some more well known books were this good. I just hope the creators can continue their stories in some form going forward, but even if they can't then that's ok, because this has been one hell of a ride!!

Afterlife Inc. Vol. 3: Lifeblood will be released next weekend at Thought Bubble in Leeds. If you end up being there, pick it up. Actually, on second thought, pick up all three volumes because ( and Trust me on this) you won't regret it.

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