This five-issue miniseries is set in India, and pursues its questions about life and death in a Hindu context. As the story begins the avatar of Death (who is drawn to look like Kali, with blue skin and multiple arms) is summoned to a meeting with God (who is drawn to look like Brahma, the Creator, with three heads). It seems that a human being is about to discover the secret to eternal life, so her services will no longer be required. What’s a goddess to do? Since she is condemned to a mortal life, she convinces a heavenly functionary to send her into a mortal body near the future inventor of immortality, intending to cut off the problem at the source.
That body is the titular Laila Starr, a twenty-something woman who has just died after falling (or jumping) from a skyscraper during a party. Laila awakens in the very hospital where the inventor (an infant named Darius) has recently been born. Unable to kill the child, she runs out of the hospital and straight into the path of a huge truck, dying for the first time. She regains consciousness in the company of Pranah (usually spelled Prana), the god of Life, who brought her back to life for old times’ sake. It is eight years later, so the child is not a baby anymore.
The title is “the many deaths,” so you can see where this is going. She finds the kid–at a funeral, of all things–but is pulled under water and drowned before she can do anything, and comes back to life twelve years later. Then sixteen years later (after dying in a fire), and finally twenty-eight years later (after being buried under a collapsed temple). By now she has gotten to know Darius. He is elderly, and dying of a terminal disease. But he tells her that he discovered immortality three weeks after his forty-ninth birthday and put it in an old shoebox, where it has been sitting in his closet ever since. He has come to believe that life itself is the real miracle, and Lailah seems to believe it, too.
This is a beautiful story, with echoes of Neil Gaiman’s Death character in The Sandman, as well as Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Vertigo miniseries Daytripper. Andrade’s visual style is simple but effective, with an especially broad color palette (Inês Amaro is credited with color assists): here naturalistic earth colors, there psychedelic oranges and reds.
Lemire and Jock told this story in the form of two Seasons, totaling almost 250 pages. It takes place in a stark, frozen dystopia, opening with a family skating down an endless ice trench. The trench is their whole world, in the midst of a seemingly frozen world. In fact, they live by three rules: You must never leave the Trench; The Trench provides; The Trench is endless. It should not be surprising that all of these rules turn out to be false in the end.
The first season takes place entirely in the trench. Sisters Milliken and Mae are out on a scavenging trip with their father Karl, but they return to the settlement to find all of the other Trenchfolk dead. Soon they are on the run from the Snowman, an avenging angel in a futuristic battle suit (which the girls had thought was just a story to keep them obedient). So maybe everything they had been taught was true after all, including the legendary Colden Ones (hard to believe no editor tried to talk Lemire out of that clunky invention, which I kept misreading as the Olden Ones).
Fortunately, the second part finally reveals a great deal of history–of both the family and humanity at large. Turns out that Karl, his brother and his wife (who died giving birth to Mae) had themselves ventured out of the trench, encountering a mysterious space ship with dead aliens aboard. Miliken makes the same discovery, and the onboard computer system offers her the same mission status report. The aliens were gathering resources for Earth, but the discovery of some huge eggs changed the mission. The meaning of it all is a bit hazy, but the bottom line is the departure of the survivors on an alien life raft. This was definitely not one of Lemire’s better stories, but Jock’s stylish and energetic art manages to sell it most of the time. All Amazon Prime subscribers can read this and the other Comixology Originals for free.