The Gray Area #2, July 2004, Image Comics
writer: Glen Brunswick
penciller: John Romita, Jr.
inker: Klaus Janson
letterer: John Workman
colorist: Bill Crabtree
Blogger's note: Entry for Tuesday, February 26, 2008.
If the afterlife was simply an extension of your earthly existence, would you be so afraid of death? As much as you might hate your job, isn't an eternity of working a familiar relief compared to the other more disturbed condemnations mankind has imagined over the years? Yet what if this shallow echo of your terrestrial life was really just a test to determine whether or not you should advance to heaven or be condemned to hell? Would you be able to find joy in those mundane moments at work? Would you be able to conjure compassion in place of contempt for your fellow man?
Welcome to the Gray Area.
Of course, my hypothetical introduction assumes that you hate your job. If you don't, you wouldn't end up in the Gray Area in the first place, so forget I even mentioned it. For the rest of you, consider Rudy Chance, this series' protagonist, your guide to "Living a Successful Afterlife." Chance, a corrupt cop killed in the line of duty, is pulled into this peculiar purgatory, and, thanks to his law enforcement skills and street smarts, is recruited by the Gray Watch to protect his fellow meandering souls. Among them exists an army locked in perpetual combat, and the victims of a riot actually trapped in a purgatory for the purgatory, if you can believe that. Chance initially declines the offer, but when his spirit guide Jordan reveals the painful alternative, Rudy accepts his fate -- which takes almost half of this issue! Chance is definitely a glutton for punishment, but his greatest nemesis is himself, as struggles with finding the compassion he needs to exhibit the cosmic powers available to him in the afterlife.
Indeed, The Gray Area has a very tangible message: kindness and compassion are empowering characteristics, even when you're dead.
Like I said, a good half of this issue is dedicated to Chance accepting Jordan's offer, and while his episodic torture becomes a bit repetitive, these scenes give artist John Romita, Jr. a chance to stretch his supernatural legs, as I suggested in my review of The Gray Area #1 a year or so ago. This three issue miniseries is an excellent vehicle for Romita's strengths, as this afterlife retains distinctive urban traits usually typical to Romita's native superhero fare, yet we readers get to experience this existential aspect to his art, as well, a very visually rewarding return for this issue's four dollar cover price. A solid 32-pages, The Gray Area #2 is a hefty, engrossing read that actually stands on its own as an introspective look at personal integrity and death. Rudy is always a like able character -- and, therefore, is extremely realistic.
So, like The Craptacular B-Sides, I'm two issues deep in a three issue miniseries, and I actually care about how it ends. Here's to hoping I find The Gray Area #3 in another quarter bin! Does that mean I'll have to extend A Comic A Day for another year, just give you some closure?! Arg, maybe I'm already in hell!