Every once in a while, there’s a stand-alone graphic novel that is an event. It’s an event because of who made it, who released it, and the artifact itself. After the Rain is one of these events. Adapted from Nnedi Okorafor’s “On the Road” from her short story collection, Kabu Kabu, it is, if I’m not mistaken, her only outright horror offering. And it is truly frightening.
Adaptations are a very tricky thing to pull off. But writer John Jennings is an old hand at taking our most beloved SF novels and rendering them in the graphic/comic form as he and Dr. Damian Duffy have done with Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series . What’s surprising about Rain is that Jennings holds the writing duties while master draftsman, David Brame, handles the art. And this is one of those partnerships that we need to see more of.
In addition to Jennings writing the book, this is the first book from his Abrams ComicArts imprint, Megascope. His intention with Megascope is to bring together the most exciting artists and writers to create the most intriguing work. If After the Rain is any indication of future Megascope offerings, we’ll be in for stellar work for years to come.
After the Rain centers on Chioma, a Nigerian-American police officer who returns to her ancestral home. In what should normally be a dry season, a storm hits her tiny village. There’s a knock at her door and standing there is an impossibly injured young boy whose burning touch acts as a genesis point for Chioma’s descent into her ancestry, folklore, and cultural iconography, and the monsters therein, that fundamentally changes who she will ever be. As always, I won’t ruin the story for you. But what I will say is that Jennings and Brame amplify the breathless horror of On the Road by making the writing as direct and economic as possible (shout out to Dr. Damian Duffy on lettering duty) and the art making us question just what is in that darkened corner of the page.
Brame mostly eschews the traditional panel format and provides us with non-traditional page layouts that feel more akin to a series of graffiti burners than your traditional comic’s pages. However, when he does deploy traditional panels, it is to devastating effect. Wait until you see pages 105-110. Chills.
Not only are the story pages gorgeous, the book itself is a mini gallery. Before diving into it, I suggest you take of the dust jacket, look at the cover, and then peruse the end sheets — they are stunning. When you dive into the book, please allow yourself time to absorb the pages. Many of us will plow through a book because the story propels us. I ask that you slow down and really study the layouts, the colors, the camera angles. This book is what we want graphic novels to be — what they should be.
What After the Rain has done is quite a feat. It manages to adapt a story from one of our premiere writers and not only do it justice, but force us to ask some questions the original story did not. It makes Nigeria a real and lived in place, while also making it mythically fantastic. But best of all, it tells a great horror story that relies on expert story-crafting, not just cheap gore and easy scares.
If you cop one book this week, make it After the Rain. You’ll be better for it.