When you’re a contract killer who flatlines for a few moments and sees all your past victims in hell, you tend to reevaluate your career choice. This is the basis of Over My Dead Body by Jay Faerber and Simone Guglielmini, a graphic novel spinoff of their comic series, Near Death.

The graphic novel opens on Markham in a parole hearing. We learn that he is the most violent inmate they’ve ever had, but his violence in prison is focused on protecting the lives of others. He has vowed never to take another life, and to save a life for every life he took. His parole is rejected, and we see snapshots of his continued violence in jail, creatively damaging (but not killing) other prisoners using books, food trays, mops, and frying pans. When he comes up for parole again, Warden Morris makes a deal to arrange approval, with the caveat that he expects Markham to go find his daughter, who’s run away with a previous inmate and white supremacist. Markham travels to the white supremacist compound and infiltrates the group, but he finds that their plans are much more nefarious than he anticipated.

The art is fitting for a crime thriller. Panels are tinted in a color to indicate events in the past. The views of the character are often focused more on the whole body rather than the faces; perhaps the artist isn’t confident in their portrait skills (faces are often covered by hats or shadows or are inconsistent in the amount of detail). The best panels are those of the fight between Markham and the white supremacist leader, Silas; each punch, stab, and flip captures the momentum of the battle.

The yellow internal dialogue boxes lend to the crime noir voice of the graphic novel, providing insight into Markham’s reactions and memories as he infiltrates the group. His actions certainly make him seem like he’s the bad guy, but the internal dialogue reminds us that he is one step ahead of the action. With white supremacists, I expected a lot of colorful language and violence against people of color. However, there’s little swearing in the book, and most of the time spent with the group is in their compound, not in public. In the beginning of the novel, there is a brawl between a few group members and a black man, and their group’s plan is, in part, to assassinate a black leader who is calling for justice reform, but most of the violent action is between group members. The ending is disappointing, with an abrupt solution that sets up the opportunity for another novel, but solves this storyline a little too neatly.

The topic of white supremacy and racism is likely one for teens and above, which is in line with Image’s rating of Teen Plus. The violence is somewhat bloody, but not as graphic as other crime and thrillers I’ve read. The swearing is minimal, and luckily, the violence against people of color is somewhat limited, considering supremacists are primary characters. People who enjoy crime and thriller comics or who love a good redemption story are the most likely to enjoy this title.

All in all, it was a good read. I’d probably like it more had I read the Near Death series prior to reading this. However, the Near Death series, which had two trade volumes published in 2012, suspended their plan for a third trade in 2019, instead releasing this graphic novel in 2020. If Faerber and Guglielmini offer more graphic novels with these characters, I think it’d be worth compiling the collection. As is, I could go either way with a recommendation. If you’re trying to build up your collection of crime/thrillers, this would be a good addition, but as a general contribution to your collection, I’d likely hold off.

Over My Dead Body
By Jay Faerber
Art by Simone Guglielmini
ISBN: 9781534314948
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: T+

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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)

  • Joy

    Past Reviewer

    Joy is an MLS student at Emporia State University. She has an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Kansas and has spent most of her career facilitating instruction--teaching college composition, tutoring at college writing centers, and training software customers. When she's not freelance copy editing or wrapped up in a book, she's likely playing with her pitbull, Nina Simone, drinking craft beer, or volunteering at an equine therapy program. She has a weakness for lists and spreadsheets, and she'd love to swap reading stats with you.

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