Comics Review – After the Rain by Nnedi Okorafor, John Jennings (adaptation), and David Brame (Illustrations)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

After the Rain is the graphic novel adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s story “On the Road”. The story is adapted by John Jennings and illustrated by David Brame. After the Rain is slated to come out in January of 2021. I received an advanced copy through NetGalley. The story follows Chioma, a Nigerian-American detective from Chicago, who is on a trip to a Nigerian village to visit some of her relatives. After the beginning of her visit is plagued by a fierce rainstorm lasting days on end, Chioma finds herself in trouble when she answers the door to a boy with a serious head injury. His touch burns Chioma and things begin to spiral out of control.

Chioma’s Grandmother and Grand-aunt are less than thrilled at Chioma’s choice to open the door for the wounded boy. There are strange forces at work in the village and now Chioma has invited them in. Okorafor and Jennings do a good job of gradually building horror. The book hits the ground running, but after the initial jolt, the pace slows and there’s a more gradual descent that starts and stops. One moment, things may appear to be close to normal and then Chioma comes face-to-face with another creepy experience. It leaves Chioma questioning her sanity and it helps build the reader’s anticipation as to what Chioma is going to face next.

I found the scripting by Jennings to be an interesting balance or modern comics story-telling and traditional prose. Knowing that this graphic novel was adapted from a short story helped illuminate some of the story telling choices. A lot of the narrative is driven forward by Chioma’s running internal monologue that is very reminiscent of a prose-style narrator. Comics in general have moved away from that style over the past few decades, but I thought Jennings did a pretty good job balancing the monologue’s presence without over-filling the page. The narration wasn’t duplicating what was shown on the page, but describing Chioma’s reaction and interpretation of the events. It did get a bit wordy in the third act. There were a few pages that were pretty stuffed with blocks of text at the climax of the story. The pace was still pretty quick, and there are quite a few pages here that rely solely on Brame’s illustration to move the story. I find the use of inner-monologue to be a difficult balancing act, but Jennings did an adequate job in After the Rain.

Brame’s use of the page is visually striking. There are generally only 5 or 6 panels on each page. Much of the rest of the space is filled with arresting background details. Menacing vines and flowers weave between the panels and add to the encroaching sense of horror. Even in seemingly innocent trips to the market, Brame’s page design permeates the foreboding and maintains the tension. I found the technique to be a welcome departure from a straightaway grid structure and it did feel like it helped make the book more visually distinct. Brame’s rendering of the climax of the story was certainly the best looking part of the book.

After the Rain is a story about horror, ancestry, and healing. Okorafor wrote a compelling story and it was adapted admirably by Jennings and Brame. The graphic novel gets a bit verbose in the third act, but otherwise I found it to be enjoyable. You should give it a read when it hits shelves in January 2021 and maybe give the source material from Nnedi Okorafor a read between now and then.

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