Josh Howard, Dead@17, and The Lost Books of Eve

By | Thursday, April 12, 2007 21 comments
I've been doing a lot of reviews lately, and not much in the way of general comics disucssion. With this post, though, I'll have talked about pretty much all the bonus books I've gotten lately and I'll probably go back to general discussion material in short order.

Today, I'm talking about several of the books I've seen lately by Josh Howard. He's the creative force behind Dead@17 which was a book I had heard good -- but vague -- things about. Indeed the original was evidently successful enough to spawn several sequels including the two I read called Dead@17: Revolution and Dead@17 volume 2. The basic plot revolves a 17-year-old girl named Nara, who is killed but was apparently one of a select group who are brought back to life with great powers. The evil Bolabogg is trying to manifest himself on Earth, and it's mainly up to Nara to stop him. Those two sentences are more than I knew about the series before reading any of it. The Lost Books of Eve is about the Biblical Eve. Her counterpart, Adam, was been kidnapped and Eve is convinced to leave the Garden of Eden to look for him.

Now, with Eve, I was fairly prepared what to expect just from the cover. There's a naked girl under an apple tree, a classic font on the cover... I think it's fair to assume we're talking about the stories about the Biblical Eve that have never been told. (Hence the "Lost Books" part of the title.)

With all of the Dead@17 books, the covers depicted a girl who clearly is not dead. Or a zombie. Or anything that would suggest to me that she had ever died. So I assumed -- wrongly, as it turns out -- that the title was more metaphoric. Whoever this girl was had her life interrupted when she was 17 for some reason, and she couldn't finish high school or go to college or whatever. Maybe her parents died and she had to live on her own.

So even my limited expectations for the book were thrown a 180 right from the start. Strike one.

Well, Nara and her companion/protector are fighting some nasties early in the book. They mostly look human until they break out in a case of evil, and get pitch black eyes and a tentacle-like tongue. I'm thinking aliens, maybe, or genetic mutations. Side effect of being possessed perhaps?

Nope. No, no. After all the baddies are taken out, there's a comment about them being zombies.

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike the concept of zombies?

There are so many problems with the concept of zombies. If you're looking at walking skeletons or something, there's generally a suspension of disbelief already going on. You've had a wizard or something resurrect them, right? Not so with zombies! No, they just seem to pop up wholly of their own volition for no real reason with no motivation. Well, except to kill/eat the living. Which they do why...? And, if they're so slow mentally and physically, why are they a problem to deal with? And they move too slowly to generate enough force to really do any damage to people. And why do they stop fighting once they're beheaded? They're clearly not being controlled by their brain functions anyway.

I could go on and on, but let's just say I find the concept of zombies absurd. There just too many holes with even the basic premise for me to buy into it. Strike two.

So, I'm still reading through. Nara's teamed up with this rebel group trying to destroy Bolabogg, and it's really starting to get very blatantly good versus evil. Not just cowboy Western good and evil, but really Biblical good and evil. Angels from Heaven, Fires of Hell, the whole bit... And there we have Strike Three.

I am, as I've mentioned before, an atheist. At the risk of alienating what small readership I have, I tend to find stories that use religion -- Christianity especially -- as a basis offensive. Not that I don't read ABOUT religion. Non-fiction works about religion are often quite informative, and help in understanding why people do the things they do. But the stories based on religion don't sit well with me. They tend to come across to me as proselytizing, regardless of whether or not that was the creator's intention.

Now if a character is used who happens to be of any religious persuation, I can deal with that. After all, many people in the real world are religious themselves. (I actually quite like the show Vicar of Dibley and Father Ted wasn't too bad.) But stories that focus on telling a religious or religously inspired message, that gets under my skin more often than not. I feel like the author(s) are using a medium, whether that be comics or movies or prose or whatever, to tout their religion over others in a subversive manner. It seems to me that, if you want to deliver your message of salvation, don't try to wrap it up in something other than what it is. Be honest with your approach and don't think you're being clever by sneaking it in under the guise of zombie-hunting revolutionaries (or whatever).

It was a shame really. I rather like Josh's artistic style, and his storytelling was pretty solid in these books. Indeed, there may well be a good story there that a lot of people will/already do latch onto. But I don't have any intention of paying someone to tell me how wondeful their belief system -- or, more often than not, the belief system their parents sold them -- is, regardless of what kind of superficial trappings are placed around it.

I was kind of interesting in his upcoming book called Sasquatch actually, until I read his other stuff. The art is still interesting, but I just have the sneaking suspicion that Divine Providence will play a role in the story.

I'm fully aware that my anti-relgion stance is a decided bias I bring to the table. My opinion of Josh Howard's work is largely based on the subject matter he chooses to deal with, and not the work itself. I know that. He seems pretty talented (certainly moreso than me when it comes to comic book creation) and he might well be a great guy to be with. But I, for one, don't really care to waste my time on the message it looks like he's sending.
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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You just don't get it... and that's okay. But next time, just say, "I am a little pretencious and I just don't get what all of the fuss is about Josh Howard." I would atleast have more respect for you that way. Thansk for your time!
- A huge Josh Howard fan who gets it

Anonymous said...

so...you are an atheist who hates zombies. of course you didnt like it...wtf did you expect?

Anonymous said...

You knew going in to Eve that is was going to be some what bibical, right? Then why the hell did you read it if a christian message gets under your skin? Oh! I know so you could grip about it, you are such a good atheist. Great Job!

But next time, just say, "I am a little pretencious and I just don't get what all of the fuss is about Josh Howard."
I could say that, of course, but in my mind, that doesn't really say anything. That doesn't tell you WHY it didn't click for me. I think that's important in a review. If I just tell you a book (any book) is good or bad, it doesn't really carry any weight unless A) you know me and my tastes very well and you know how I approach comics or B) I explain why I liked or disliked the book.

If I disliked a story's general concept, that's a whole different thing than if I felt it was just poorly executed and I feel it does a disservice to whatever audience I have and whatever creators I'm talking about to NOT provide rationale for my opinions. Josh's work was very solid overall, and my complaints were only with his basic concepts.

Am I being pretentious? Well, sure, it's my blog, after all. But if you're a big fan of Howard's work, that's great. I'm just telling people that, if they don't like zombies or religious stories and such, they probably won't be able to "get" into Josh's work.

so...you are an atheist who hates zombies. of course you didnt like it...wtf did you expect?
Well, as I mentioned early in my review, I was expressly NOT expecting religion or zombies. Had I known those were significant elements to Josh's work, I would've approached those books much differently. My point was that Dead@17 surprised me quite a bit, and not in a way that I like to be surprised.

Thanks to both of you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

You knew going in to Eve that is was going to be some what bibical, right? Then why the hell did you read it if a christian message gets under your skin? Oh! I know so you could grip about it, you are such a good atheist. Great Job!
I did know Eve was going to be somewhat Biblical, as I stated in the review. I didn't really have any issues with that story, as you might note, as well, because I felt Josh was more honest about the subject matter from the get-go. I don't think that's really the case with Dead@17, and thus I spent most of my time discussing that.

As you may note, if you'd followed the link about the bonus books in the first paragraph of my review, I received these and several other books for free, partially on the condition that I review them on my blog. I had no intention of "griping" about Josh's or any of the other works I received, simply providing what I thought was good or bad about any of them.

I wanted to like Josh's books. As I noted in the review, I really like his artistic style and he has solid storytelling abilities. I happen to dislike his subject matter, and I would have liked to have seen at least an acknowledgement of it on one of the Dead@17 covers to prepare readers for the type of story they could expect.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Do you go to the cinema much? Have you rented many DVD's. Ok, so you've read a book or two and voiced your opinion many times.
Why would you give a story called Dead@17 "Strike One" when the main "girl who clearly is not dead. Or a zombie" when you are reading part two or three of a story?
You didn't dismiss Star Wars for opening at Part IV.
Since when did reading become judging a book by it's cover. Sure they can be appealing and catch out the browsing consumer that is what they are for.
I expect the blogger to keep a tabs on what they are reviewing look at back story. Good Vs Evil..... What isn't in the comic industry?

Why would you give a story called Dead@17 "Strike One" when the main "girl who clearly is not dead. Or a zombie" when you are reading part two or three of a story?
As I stated in my review, the title seemed more metaphoric than literal, since NONE of the covers depicted anyone being dead or zombified or anything.

You didn't dismiss Star Wars for opening at Part IV.
Entirely different situation. The title "Star Wars" suggests a war in or among the stars. That's exactly what Episode IV was.

Since when did reading become judging a book by it's cover. Sure they can be appealing and catch out the browsing consumer that is what they are for.
I don't feel I pre-judged Josh's work before reading it. My only real assumption -- again, as I stated in my review -- was that whoever was "Dead@17" hadn't actually died.

I expect the blogger to keep a tabs on what they are reviewing look at back story.
Personally, I think any comic story should stand on its own without any external reading necessary. Josh's work DID actually do that, and I didn't have any trouble following along.

Good Vs Evil..... What isn't in the comic industry?
There's nothing wrong with a story about good vs. evil. That's essentially the basics of conflict in general, right? I just don't particularly care for ABSOLUTE good and ABSOLUTE evil, as it's generally presented in a religious sense. As I said in my review, it "tends to come across to me as proselytizing, regardless of whether or not that was the creator's intention."

Anonymous said...

I understand you are an athiest. I myself do not believe in god but I dont specifically like to label my religious disbefiefs. I am a fan of Josh Howard, and I can understand what your saying but why do you let such little things like a comic book get under your skin? Its not like he is trying to persuade you into believing his beliefs, he just made a comic. Big deal. Its up to you wether or not it sways your beliefs. I see it like this: you appear to me to be afraid of your beliefs being swayed, which would give logical cause for you to get upset over a simple comic book based off a religion.
Now I understand you will have some witty and clever remark to this with some extravagant words which you will type to make yourself feel more dominent over everyone else. So go ahead and make my day. :)
oh. and I "appreciate" your response.

Its not like he is trying to persuade you into believing his beliefs, he just made a comic.
As I've said a few times now, my issue was that I don't like books, movies, etc. that try to pass themselves off as simple entertainment when they are really about winning people over to a specific religion. As I also said, as a personal bias, I tend to see that it many stories that use religion as its foundation regardless of the creator's intent. Dead@17 felt to me like Josh was trying to tell me why his belief system was better than mine. That's what I read into it, regardless of what Josh was or wasn't trying to say with the book.

I see it like this: you appear to me to be afraid of your beliefs being swayed, which would give logical cause for you to get upset over a simple comic book based off a religion.
That's a reasonable guess, but not really accurate. I've just had too many people over the years make arguement after arguement about how wrong my opinions are about religion and how I should convert to whatever form of Christianity they're preaching. I've just gotten really tired of it.

Nothing against Christians on the whole, BTW, but I simply haven't had anyone try to persuade me to become a Jew or a Muslim or anything.

Now I understand you will have some witty and clever remark to this with some extravagant words which you will type to make yourself feel more dominent over everyone else. So go ahead and make my day.
How was that? ;)

oh. and I "appreciate" your response.
For the record, I am NOT being sarcastic or snarky or anything when I say that. I've been hoping to increase the traffic to my site, and Josh has helped that considerably in the past day or so. So I do appreciate it, even if the folks who stop by all think I'm being an unreasonable, condescending jackass.

Anonymous said...

"Unreasonable, condescending jackass" Well put!! Yes kind sir, you have increased the traffic to your site... too bad none of us will ever waste our time to return! Insert unreasonable, condescending response. . . (here)

Philip! said...

If you had taken the time to look up Sasquatch, you'd notice that Josh Howard is only the editor. It's an anthology. He contributes 2 stories to a book of over 250 pages.

You're doing a real disservice to the dozens of other artists and writers who put their stories in the book. It's excellent reading and some of the most fun I've had reading a comic in awhile. Not every story is the best, but every one contributes something.

So, if you like Josh Howard's style, but not Josh Howard - go check out the artists and writers he liked enough to put in a book with his name on it.

Anonymous said...

I've read both sides of this, and I'm always shocked, when at this point I shouldn't be, at the total and utter lack of understanding and tolerance people have about the opinions of others.

When did it become a battle of, "I'm right and be damned to anyone that doesn't agree with me"? Or even "I'm right and so it is my duty to make sure everyone else feel the same way I do".

Sean, this is YOUR blog and you are entitled to YOUR opinion. So WHAT if you happened to not like Josh's comics or anyone else's for that matter? There are hundreds of titles out there and there is something out there for everyone. That's the beauty of comics, or anything pop culture in general.

The fact that you don't like Josh's comics should not even be an issue. And when did reviewing become only about being "nice"? If you don't like a story, who cares? I'm sure there are comics that you LIKE that others don't. Is it your responsibility to then go out and try to change everyone's mind?

NO. We are human beings and we are ALL entitled to our opinions. Get off each other's backs about our individual tastes.

I found nothing derogatory in your review. You just expressed your opinion, which you have every right to. ESPECIALLY on your own blog. You don't HAVE to like everything you pick up.

Get over yourselves, people. The best thing you can do about a review that is contrary to your opinion is to ignore it.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever notice that it's okay for atheists, a tiny minority of the population, to be "offended" at any mention of Christianity, a belief system held by billions?

Yeah, I noticed that too.

Those with talent "do", those with none "review".

Anonymous said...

Did you ever notice that it's okay for atheists, a tiny minority of the population, to be "offended" at any mention of Christianity, a belief system held by billions?

Yeah, I noticed that too.

Those with talent "do", those with none "review".

Vanessa Mahan said...

It is a comic, meant strictly for entertainment purposes only...and you, well you're just an idiot.

Joey Gruszecki said...

Sir, my problem with your review has nothing to do with your opinion of the book. It is totally up to you whether you dig a book or not. Not every person is going to enjoy every book. While I disagree with you I don't fault you for your opinion, nor would I call you an idiot and dismiss you as seems to be a popular response.

I do however have a problem with your review and that is that it is not really a review. It seems that your review is more a critique/complaint about the type of comics these are not so much the comics themselves. You yourself say that you hate the concept of zombies. Fine, fair enough. But that shouldn't stop you from giving a fair and balanced review about a comic book. I can watch a movie about cheerleading (a subject I have NO interest in) and can create a review on it based on its merit as a film, NOT whether I think cheerleading is stupid. Likewise it seems to me that you should be able to create a review about a comic that has a subject that does not interest you. Unfortuneately your review comes off as "Zombies are stupid thus so is this book." The same goes for the biblical argument. You can say that stories that involve religion offend you but surely you can still review the craft, the storytelling, the art not the subject matter.

Anyway, that's what I think on the subject. Hopefully this is more constructive than "you're an idiot."

Mary said...

Who said Josh Howard was trying to "disguise" anything?

Sometimes it's a good idea to put a message of some sort into a type of new package so that it DOES appeal to others. That's the whole point of "getting the Word out."

And I'm too lazy to get up and research, but I think that Book 1 actually explains that they aren't COMPLETELY zombies...but yeah, basically they are.

But if you don't like zombies in the first place, than yeah.. you wouldn't like the comic. Which is no big deal. A million other people do like it.

Mary said...

I felt the need to comment again after reading some of the other comments as well as your responses/comments back to those comments.

I myself, am a Christian. Like most I assume that come here (from Josh's site) who feel the need to "defend Josh". I realize that I might have sounded like one of them. I think actually that Josh doesn't need any defending. He's a grown man and a successful one at that.

Anyway, the real reason I wanted to write again is because I find it odd that many are rather rude to you for what you are saying and they are supposedly "believers". But they are rude, sarcastic and revert to name-calling.

Not being the best examples of what Christ wants from us. And I know that you are atheist and don't fully understand my point of views (nor do I know yours) but I'm not trying (if it sounds like it) to preach at you or to convert you.

I basically wanted to point out the fact that those people aren't nice. :oP

And after reading more of your responses I understand a bit more of what you were meaning to convey with your review.

So you didn't enjoy the comic book as much as you hoped. Oh well. That's part of the joys of reading... to discover what catches your attention.

Have a good one.

Anonymous said...

You call that a mustache? You are pathetic! Aaaaaand I would have given up on religion long ago if God had blessed me with that ugly mug. Jeepers creepers!

John said...

i

John said...

first, what about the story did you see as an attempt to steer you to a belief, and do you take a similarly dim view of comics that make overtly anti Christian statements as they must be trying to sway beliefs using your logic? I'm as non religious as you can get but won't call myself an atheist because the term jas been seized by overtly anti-religious people many who won't say a single negative thing about the religion out there that spawns terrorists from it's ranks on a daily basis, Islam. No, not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslim. And somehow I'm just a horrible person if I write that truth. If I draw an image of Mohammed even a positive one I should be killed but for goodness sake don't write a comic where Christians aren't evil corrupt villains that might offend!