The two student leaders of Dead High have to put together a yearbook for the year that has led to demon dogs, vampires, zombies, and other assorted supernatural creations, and they’re going to need the help of those affected by these creations in order to do so.
Ah High School, the boon of many a teenager, that place where we go not to learn about math, history, or science, but social norms. Yes, I remember High School rather well, had some great times with my friends, but I can’t say I remember too much about the subjects they taught. I have this very specific form of Attention Deficit Disorder where I quite paying attention to things that don’t interest me. I tried to get help for it, but I was told to quit being a little shit, that might have to do more with me asking for help from the crazy hobo who used to buy our liquor, but it was good advice none the less. I also remember a lot of people telling me I was going to miss it years later, still waiting for that. Sure, I miss the time when my only worries were how I was going to get the girl I liked and if my clothes were cool enough for me to score said girl, but I sure as hell don’t miss high school. It was boring, it was repetitive, and ninety percent of what I learned never once became of any value to me. That being said, I’m sure I’d have a much different opinion if my high school had been populated by some cool zombies, a demon or two, and the odd vampire. Though Buffy didn’t seem to feel the same way.
Dead High Yearbook takes the form of one central tale surrounded by a group of short tales that all fit into the central storyline. Confused yet? Okay, let me clear it up a bit. The central storyline is that of a group of high school kids putting together a yearbook for that year, only their yearbook is going to be populated by kids that are the victims of supernatural elements, and by victims, I mean all those working on it are already dead, or something close to dead, including our two central characters referred to only as Zombie Boy and Zombie Girl. As they put together the yearbook, searching for photos they need to place inside, we are treated to the tale of how that person ended up in a yearbook of the dead. These include:
- A skinny nerd and an overweight goth kid, both looking to change the way they look, take some supplements that have horrific results.
- A boy named Louie who has to deal with zombies and vampires, some closer to home than others.
- A spoiled brat who gets a small, frou-frou dog that might just take her soul before it goes.
- A group of young thugs who choose the wrong person to mug.
- A love triangle and the frozen drink seller caught up in the middle.
- A young woman so dedicated to passing her college entrance exams that not even death can stop her.
These stories all take high school situations and add a supernatural spin to them, eventually coming together to answer how all these once normal kids ended up in the yearbook room of Dead High.
One thing that you should know right off the bat is that Dead High Yearbook was written more for teenagers than it was for adults, so things are all going to be coming from those awkward years we all spent trying to prove how cool we were. Basically, expect a whole lot of “hip” lingo as written by people who haven’t been forced to use teenage slang in a while. It seemed like a more teenaged version of Tales from the Crypt with some Buffy the Vampire Slayer thrown into the mix, its characters dealing with bullying, sexuality, trying to fit in to the crowd, and teenage love, among other things, with the glue story of the anthology being the characters all trying to create the yearbook. Each anthology story then takes a few pages to give the reason as to why those characters are there before going back to the central yearbook story. Some stories involve characters that don’t end up in the yearbook, but still have a reason for being mentioned as possibilities. While the central story maintains the use of a specific writer and artists, each anthology is handled by a different set of writers and artists so that each one changes up the artistic style and tone. I found it to be an interesting way of handling the anthology, like a comic book version of the Animatrix. It kept the comic fresh throughout its pages.
The stories were all very interesting to me, each one having something different to say and tackling a different supernatural tale to tell, so that no two stories come across as too much alike. There’s so much variety that you’re bound to find something you’re going to like within its pages, and the artwork, though constantly changing, is always amazing and showcases some great talent. I liked the design of the book overall as well, with its front covers giving us a before and after yearbook look (as in they show the characters before their tragedy and afterwards, though there is one complaint here, but more on that in a minute) and the bloodstained page edges you notice as you peruse. Pay attention as you read as well to a little skull that likes to pop up from time to time, usually at least a few times per story. I’m not sure what its purpose was exactly except as a foretelling type of character within the story, but it was nice to try and catch it when it was popping up. I’m guessing it might have been a supernatural character because, while normal human characters didn’t seem to notice it, the supernatural characters could actually interact with it like when the demon dog pushed it behind a bench so it wouldn’t be noticed. Either way, it was an interesting little addition.
Despite my enjoyment, there were a couple of things the comic suffered from such as bad dialogue and a few inconsistencies. The dialogue wasn’t ever terrible, there were just times it seemed kind of silly, like when someone saves a group of vampires only to turn around then tell them that he guesses they have to eat him now but it’s okay because life sucks. People don’t say those kind of things, and it was odd to see people talk like that at times, again it came across as silly. I think they definitely should have spent some more time with the dialogue. The other thing that bothered me were the inconsistencies that were all too obvious at times. A great example was in the story involving a high school student for whom death wouldn’t even stop when it came to completing her SATs. At the beginning of the story, the young lady’s sister is talking with an officer about what just happened, the officer letting her know that her mom should be coming out of the coma that shock put her into. She then begins to tell the officer about her sister getting decapitated, grabbing her own head, and making her way to the SATs. All fine and well, but she finishes this story by telling the cop about her and her mom receiving her sister’s scores. If her mom is currently in a coma from the shock of seeing her decapitated daughter then how did they see the SAT scores? There’s also the really glaring flaw of a misnamed character on the front inside cover, one whom they name as Jeff but is obviously supposed to be a different character named Charlie. The story inconsistences are a big enough deal, but such a glaring flaw should have been noticed easily.
Still, I enjoyed the comic even with its flaws. Would I recommend you immediately going to check this one out? No, but if it does cross your path I’d give it a shot. I think you’ll enjoy.
The Undead Review
Published By: Dutton Books
Written By: Ivan Velez, Mark McVeigh, Papo Martin, Wilfred Santiago, Jennifer Camper, Ho Che Anderson, John Rozum, and Jacqueline Ching
Art By: Shawn Martinbrough, Wilfred Santiago, Brian Hurtt, ChrisCross, Nicola Scott, Pop Mhan, and Ho Che Anderson
Rotten Heads: Three Heads Out of Five