The Complete First Series

by Josh Howard
(Viper, 2005)

It's an adorable image: a young girl, just 17 years old, in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit to die for, spattered in blood and clutching an axe.

Josh Howard knows how to sell comics.

Nara is a pretty average 17-year-old girl, to all appearances, until she is brutally murdered by an unidentified assailant in her home. Hazy, her best friend, has enough trouble dealing with Nara's death without strange people coming around asking questions, the troubling discovery of Nara's secret diary and -- ohmygod! -- zombies crashing through her walls. Fortunately for Hazy, Nara didn't stay dead for long.

Dead@17 presents an interesting new heroine for the modern set. While people around her might melt down at the sight of rampaging zombies, Nara has already been dead once, and she takes to her new role as a supernatural slayer with grace and a certain amount of delight. Of course, it doesn't bode well for her future that a dark cult seeks to kidnap her, and an evil presence currently trapped in a bodiless head wants her for his host.

This initial, brief run of the series doesn't win awards for robust character development. (Check out ex-beau Elijah's lukewarm reaction when his new girlfriend is chomped by a zombie: "Noooo! Dammit!" Granted, she was a bit of a rhymes-with-witch, but she deserved a bit more of a reaction than that.) But it serves up a fun set of teen scoobies and some solid potential for future plot development.

And, let's not forget, Howard draws cute, mangaesque barely legals in scanty attire and carrying weapons. Hey, the man knows his audience.

by Tom Knapp
15 July 2006

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