Dead@17: The Compendium Edition

Dead@17 first showed up back in 2003 from Viper Comics. It follows the story of Nara, an innocent teenager who is brutally murdered in her own home only to be reborn as the potential savior or destroyer of humanity. But that’s just the setup.

The story is really about the ultimate struggle between good and evil. Nara is the intended vessel for the rebirth of the demon Bolabogg in his quest to usurp the power of God. When that plan fails it’s up to Nara, her friends and some shadowy occult paramilitary organizations to stop him from using another unlucky girl who’s just been killed and resurrected in Nara’s stead.

Throw in some zombies possessed by a demon named Legion, a still alive and fighting Joan of Arc and plenty of risqué panels of Nara, her friend Hazy, and substitute vessel – and Nara’s nemesis – Violet, and you’ve got a recipe for an entertaining and thoughtful graphic novel that plays fast and loose with the classic story of the apocalypse.

While the themes are unapologetically Christian, it doesn’t bang you over the head with it or preach to you. Josh Howard, the author and artist, does a wonderful job keeping the religious themes grounded in the realm of story and mythology as opposed to dogmatic philosophy.

Howard’s art style is reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon. He uses thick black lines and vibrant colors that resemble the style of Batman: The Animated Series but with more of a manga sensibility. Howard also excels in bringing his characters to life through expression and shadow. Even his infernal demons have a broad range of emotions.

Howard’s character designs show an emphasis on style and simplicity. His characters border on the stereotypical, but this helps us get to know them quicker and makes them instantly recognizable.

The Compendium Edition released in April has lots of extras not seen in the trades or the originals. In addition to the complete cover gallery of the original comic run, it’s got eighteen pinups from other professional artists and six pages of fan art covering everything from stills from a fan movie to a page full of fan tattoos.

If you haven’t taken a look at Dead@17 yet, it’s fast paced, fun and comes highly recommended, especially this new edition since it’s the cheapest way to own the whole series. It’s a powerful combination of story, style and art that leaves me hungry for more Josh Howard.