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Dead@17 #2

Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2003
By: Egg Embry



Story and Art: Josh Howard
Publisher: Viper Comics

Yet again, my heart went pitter-patter when I got the e-mail from my friend, Jessie Garza (President of Viper Comics). It stated that Josh Howard’s Dead@17 number 2 was in stores. Just like last month, after work, I picked up my girlfriend and we slogged our way down to the comic shop. I grabbed the second to last copy (and this is on Wednesday) of Dead@17 #2, paid my hardly earned money and climbed back into the car to… sit in traffic! I gotta find a closer comic shop…

Now, before we go any further, I LOVE DEAD@17. It is the comic for me. And I am friends with Jessie Garza. They even thank me in this issue (as one of my friends mentioned, not only am I a minor league comics professional with a few writing credits under my belt, but I’ve now become a comics scenester to boot). So understand, I’m shilling for my friends but I’m shilling a product I’ve spent my money on and I think is worth reading. (If you’d like to read my unadulterated praise of the first issue of the Dead@17 mini-series, CLICK HERE)

Anyways, I have been waiting to read this issue and glean some further details of the adventures of Hazy and Nara (Josh Howard’s female leads) in Dead@17. With that in mind, this is the best $2.95 I’ve spent in the last thirty days! Let me hit my highlights: Nara and Hazy! The two female leads in Josh Howard’s gem of a mini-series come across as completely real! They are very nice and terribly fun despite the situation they find themselves in. They’re two upbeat women tossed in a bizarre circumstance and they make the most of it, but they still come across as teenagers. Let me throw out an example; after surviving an attack in her mom’s trailer by zombies, Hazy is concerned about EVERYTHING in her life. Her friends, herself and the attackers and what’s going on… and she has to be reminded that her mother is in the next room of the trailer. I cannot tell you the number of girls I’ve dated that thought of their mother as nothing or nearly non-existent. When I read that, I thought, “Damn… I REALLY used to date girls like this!” And the scene with Elijah (Nara’s ex-boyfriend) and Lisa (Elijah’s new girlfriend) rings terribly, TERRIBLY true. Me and my tubby ass have had that exact argument time-and-time again!

And that’s the reason I LOVE DEAD@17! Every moment of character interaction rings SO true in my ear! Every time there’s a scene between friends, I buy it! Josh Howard is doing good by me! And I am happy to pay my cash for this.

Also, his art is on-point! I don’t question when scenes end, I don’t question who is in-panel or what their emotions are. When Nara is examining a series of scars on her body, I believe that she’s been stabbed over and over again. Josh Howard’s work speaks to me! He sells every moment.

Zombie fights! I don’t know why zombies are in vogue right now (“28 Days Later”, Image’s “The Walking Dead”, Steven Niles and Kieron Dwyer’s upcoming IDW release, “Remains”, Humanoids’ Metal Hurlant is running a serialized zombie piece called “Fragile” and, of course, the Rob Zombie comic book… that’s not a stretch or anything), but they are, and they make GREAT enemies! I mean it, there are more dead bodies in the ground than living ones in the world! In fact, I’ve decided to hop on the bandwagon myself and write a comic about zombies! Marvel Zombies. (Oh, that wasn’t even close to funny.)

Back to zombies fights. Josh’s art gives the dead a presence that I dig. They are cartoony, but have this sinister air about them, it’s a nice mix.

Issue two also introduces the plot and the bad guys… and that is why I took away a half-point. Josh breaks from this really genius story about two friends who experience something completely biblical together and how they cope with it. He breaks from his path to introduce a plot that requires two pages of explanation.

That’s… that’s… that’s a LOT of exposition in one fast-paced issue!

Let me give you a comparison:

I’m on a school fieldtrip, a radioactive spider bites me, I gain superpowers and go on TV (this is the Stan Lee version as opposed to the Bendis version), don’t bother stopping a crook, that same crook kills my uncle and I feel responsible enough to fight crime for the rest of my life, sacrificing my financial well-being to the point that I never get a decent job and am always forced to seek my Aunt May’s approval because I feel I got her husband killed!

That was a long sentence.

For comparison’s sake, let’s put that obtuse series of events against the origin of Marvel’s Thor.

Verily, I was born a God!

Thor’s origin is a good origin, short and to the point. I am and this is what I do, there is no single reason this is happening other than I WANT to do this.

That’s the type of origin and plot you want to have in a comic. Direct and simple. In Dead@17 number 2, we get the plot and on the bad guy’s end, it’s this Thor-like reasoning for being the bad guys. And for Nara and Hazy, the reasoning is sound. But one other good guy is introduced and his motivation is VERY complex (two pages to explain it) and somewhat hard to fathom (much like radioactive spiders bites).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THIS BOOK! Like I said, from the bad guys point-of-view, everything works simply. From Nara and Hazy’s perspective, this is workable. The interaction is fabulous. Josh Howard’s art is just right. And because the rest of this comic is a complete joy, I don’t mind.

So, I recommend this book. It’s good. And I want to see more by Josh Howard.



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