By FELL HOUND
Told in zine format, Do You Believe in an Afterlife? is a graphic short story of comics and prose about two lovers navigating a war they can’t win, and a world on the brink of apocalypse.
Set in an alternate reality where alien machines have run rampant on earth, two soldiers – Arid, an idealistic recruit, and Claire, an introverted mechanic – fall in love. But the rose-tinted thrills of romance soon fade when the machines attack, leaving nothing but calamity in their wake.
As the world they once knew crumbles around them, Do You Believe in an Afterlife? rises to tell an emotionally charged romance that tests the notion of forever against the end of the world.
TW: Graphic Violence, mild NSFW
Length: 40 pages.
Fell Hound is a queer, Asian-Canadian cartoonist from the Great White North, most notable for her use of bold colors and mood lighting. Do You Believe in an Afterlife? is considered her debut self-published work.
Love and the Apocalypse, pretty much the eternal partnership to summarize the polar opposites of the human psyche. Take your pick. Usually it’s either eternal hope or eternal despair that drives our actions. Sure we’re not always fully aware of what’s in control of our wheel but the motifs almost always fall into line with one of the two. Everything is bright and fluffy or it’s dark and course. Fell Hound uses the two against and with each other to create a wonderful piece of art.
Right out of the gate we’re introduced to the two individuals that will be the main characters in the tale. As this is a hybrid format Fell is able to use the structural elements to blend a type of character card into an intro page that gives us the basic details of our two mains. Throughout Part I of the story we’re quickly swept through the coming together of Claire and Arid. While done at a swift pace in terms of the relationship, the initial section serves as more than just their drawing close. The art and action depicted serve to give us a much fuller sense of who they are and how they’re drawn to each other. It also helps set the world they live in and what it is they’re facing. Within this section there are a couple of instances of negative space/silhouette art that leaps off the page in wonderful fashion. As the first portion transitions more to the prose story telling we see Fell’s writing ability truly shine. The depth of who the characters are, their hopes and worries about what may come are laid out for the reader. Along with her excellent writing Fell shows that she has also has an excellent ability to choose how to convey the prose through her imagery.
The structural approach really shines in the second part of the story. The comic book first, prose second really allows for the feel of the threat to come across. Right out of the gate we’re in trouble. A full on assault on life greets the reader literally. The machines threatening human life arrive in droves and all but wipe out everything. In this battle and aftermath the impending doom is cast over our couple. More of their personality and beliefs come through as the inevitable choice of how, or whether to at all, confront the future faces them. All encompassing in scale, the threat dares to wipe out all that is. Regardless of personal belief and the differences that sit within them there is a common thread intertwined in Claire and Arid. Despite what seems to be unstoppable in its pursuit of them the two arrive together on solid footing in all of the destruction.
The final segment is a very short but distinct tying of of a bow around the whole package. It is imagery with splash of text in a newspaper headline. Nothing need be said. What we see is the fully tied and entrenched couple heading forward on their own volition. Reality of the world be damned they drive forward doing what they must while doing what they can. Completing each other both Claire and Arid merge their hopes, fears, and beliefs into a life that shines a light refusing to succumb to the ever growing darkness.
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