by: David Pinckney
Many of you have seen the multitudes of Dead @ 17 comics at your local comic shops. Knowing where to start can be a bit daunting, but for our convenience Image Comics has collected Josh Howard's original story into a graphic novel. Within the graphic novel we have 4 limited series in one Dead @ 17, Dead @ 17: Blood of Saints, Dead @ 17: Revolution, and Dead @ 17: The 13th Brother. Rather then going into each individual series, I'm going to review it as one whole cohesive piece.
The Ultimate Edition of Dead @ 17 is overall a good comic. The writing is good, the art is good, and the overall plot of the comic is good. This does come with some faults though. The story takes a little bit of time to actually get going even considering the fact that the main character, Nara Kilday, dies within the first couple of pages. As you can imagine she dies at the age of 17 but what happens next isn't something so easily predicted. Upon her death she is reborn to sly demons for reasons unknown to her. We see organizations that begin to come after her with their own personal gains in mind. We meet the good guys, the bad guys, and the families all effected by the death of Nara Kilday. All of this is good, but all of this is a lot of information. There is a lot of building up that has to be done for the story to begin to make sense. It takes time to get across who is who, and why are they doing what they are doing. The comic is one that is good but begs the reader to just give it a little more time to really draw you in. This isn't to say it's boring until the comic kicks off in full swing but, it doesn't really show its true potential until midway into the graphic novel.
Obviously some series in the graphic novel are better then others. And while overall this is a good comic, you may or may not feel that way until you've hit your favorite “arc” of the story. The thing is though, that since the story is so intertwined with itself, once you hit that favorite part, there is this almost retroactive feeling of liking for the comic. You feel yourself appreciating what you have read prior even more. That said, I do personally feel that this reads better as a graphic novel then stand alone, month to month issues. While the individual comics are fun to read, it's always nice to be able to get the whole story at once, and with so much going on in the comic, it helps to have as much information as you can.
Alright, so we have yet another demon slaying story. Why read this one over another one? The honest answer is, personal preference which may be the obvious answer to most people, but I'll go a little further. Dead @ 17 has a sort of unique feel to it. It doesn't feel scary, but it doesn't relaxed either. We can see, and at times feel, the tension that the writer is giving us but let's be honest, this comic revolves heavily around teenagers which gives it a whole new feeling to the genre. It is written how most teenagers would talk, which is good in the writing aspect, we don't want to see a seventeen year old girl talking as if she were a middle aged adult. We expect to have the drama and the angst that most teenagers, typically, exhibit. But on the other side of the same coin, some may feel that it detracts from the story. At times the story feels like it's going too heavily into teenage issues but to this I say, the title doesn't lead you to think differently. By buying this graphic novel you can have a pretty good sense of what you are getting yourself into.
So what's good about the story? For one, it is written well, as in the characters all speak how they should, there isn't any real noticeable breaking of character personalities throughout. It's just a solid written dialog. The characters are interesting. While some characters feel relatively similar, they all have a purpose and enough of a difference that you can still have opinions towards one character or another. Some parts get pretty intense and blindside you with characters personal life problems that keep you wanting to know more. Let's not also forget that there is a lot to read here, this graphic novel carries 4 series in it and there are still other series out that you can get your hands on. It is a constantly evolving world of demons, the supernatural, and the occasional dead seventeen year old.
Long story short, if you got the extra money, pick up the comic. It's fun and entertaining, but may not be for everyone. I enjoyed it, and I know others will as well. Josh Howard has done a good job of creating a story that will keep those with even the faintest interest reading. It's a good, solid, comic. Check it out.
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