Number 13 is a lot of things. Sure, it’s a post-apocalyptic tale while having a heavy emphasis on the future and science fiction. But it also is able to encapture organic emotions of friendship, betrayal, loss, the search for the truth, and the will to be wanted by others. Enter our protagonist, called “13” throughout. Throughout the course of these 4 issues (this trade collects issues #0-3), we learn that his real name is Evan. As a baby, he was forced by Professor Wade Eablis to become a “servator.” The purpose of the servator is to kill Fecteds (I’ll get to that later). During a public speech made by Eablis, he explained how he needed these servators to save the world. He said Evan was “special” and took him from his mother’s arms. He claims that combining humanity with technology will save the people from their impending doom. He also promises that Evan will never lose his humanity or his name, two things that are far from the truth. Everyone’s worst nightmare becomes true: the “Monstrum Morbus Plague” decimates the human race. Those who were fortunate enough to survive were turned into mutated monsters, also known in the book as “Fecteds.” Even a smaller percentage of people are “Munes,” or humans who remained immune to the plague. Even though they were immune, they still carried the disease. War ensued between these two factions.
The reason why 13 is so special is because he was the only one that was truly immune. He wasn’t infected and wasn’t a carrier. He was Professor Eablis’s only hope to creating an antidote to combat the plague. Even 13’s blood was “a weapon to be used against the monsters.” In simple terms, 13 was the cure.
In issue #0, we learn that 13 is an amnesiac. His processing unit was damaged years and years ago. This processing unit was responsible for thinking, telling 13 what he is and what he is supposed to do. He doesn’t even know who he is or what he’s doing, but he’s adamant on finding his father. He asks anyone and anything, really (he even picks up a skull and asks it if it’s his dad) if they’re his father. We’re then introduced to Lorna, a three-eyed girl who is being eaten by a Fected. 13 blows it away with a spray of bullets, his arms turning into machine guns. You can tell the boy’s innocence is still intact, it’s clear that the technology is driving his killings, not his own mind. He ends up fashioning on a metallic leg for Lorna. At this point, I thought the story would be an endearing tale of friendship with hints of violence while 13 and Lorna find 13’s father. I was very wrong, as that plot wouldn’t have captured the depth and intrigue that Number 13 has.
I don’t want to give too much away, as I believe this trade is definitely worth picking up. Throughout the story you will see 13 try to figure out who he really is and why he’s searching for his father. Everyone he meets (minus the children) tries to take advantage of him-they see him as the ultimate weapon to dominate the world, nothing more. It turns out; Wade Eablis is looking for 13, too. Who possesses him in the end and if 13 ever finds his father is for you to find out.
You can see the innocence in the children-but the children think more morally and sanely than the adults. The adults just want to use 13 as a weapon, while the children see him as a friend and a protector against mutants in their land. What does the war mean? It’s just killing beings because they look different from others; it’s no different from, say, World War II. To quote the book, “The plague did not turn humans into monsters. It merely provided an excuse to be what they already were.”
Both the writing and the artwork in this book were strong. The art is a bit cartoony, but provides much detail and personality to the characters it depicts. You can really feel for Evan’s mother as she looks at her son for the last time. You can also see the brutality as the ogre is eating Lorna’s leg, with a stream of blood and bones behind it. The decimated world is very believable and desolate, and the futuristic feel that most of the book retains is also very believable. It’s not too weird or out there, and it seems like these advancements might be something that would happen 60 years after the world ended. Personally, I’m not a fan of science fiction much, but I still loved this book. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a very solid story rather than just throwing a ‘science-fiction’ tag on it.
As I said, this book does a lot of things. And it does a lot of things well. It’s grim and grotesque, but there’s also a sense of hope through the eyes of the youth. Dark Horse knocked it out of the park again with an enthralling miniseries worthy of any comic fan’s 16 bucks.
Writer: Robert Love, David Walker
Artist: Robert Love
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 8/28/13