Review: Twelve Percent Dread

Author/Artist: Emily McGovern
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Released: July 26, 2022
Received: Own

I’ve been a fan of Emily McGovern for quite some time now. I first found her work through My Life As A Background Slytherin, but I really fell in love with Bloodlust & Bonnets (seriously, if you haven’t read this, go do it now!). So, naturally, I was pretty invested in getting my hands on Twelve Percent Dread, her latest graphic novel.

And let me tell you, Twelve Percent Dread is a BEAST. It’s 416 pages, but thanks to the printing format, it feels like more. Anyway, this graphic novel is perfect for anyone who has gotten fed up with phones and technology. Have you ever wanted to scream at somebody for being on their phone too much? Well, get ready for more of that!

Three friends – all with very different lives, and all equally addicted to their phones (and all other forms of technology). Katie is bouncing from job to job, trying to find her place in the world. She’s dealing with the constant fear of missing out on life – of wasting it all. So naturally, she’s pretty hooked on social media and productivity apps.

Nasim (aka Nas) has other things on their mind. Like whether or not they’re going to get deported. Or when they’re finally going to sit down and begin the big art project, they keep talking about. Meanwhile, Emma is working for a soulless corporation, trying to plan a wedding, and dealing with all the ensuing drama.

Writing

Okay, so there are several reasons why I wanted to pick up Twelve Percent Dread. First, I love Emily McGovern’s writing. Her characters are always witty, sarcastic, and funny. In short, they have my favorite sense of humor. Second, Twelve Percent Dread was promised to be a “fast-paced, laugh-a-page graphic novel” – I don’t need to explain why that was tempting! And finally, I liked the core concept of the story.

Overall, I found Twelve Percent Dread to be an interesting read – though perhaps not quite the “laugh-a-page” I was promised. In truth, there were plenty of dried pages, particularly during the setup phase of the plot. It takes a while to get into the swing of things. It takes a touch longer to appreciate the characters and their style of wit.

On the bright side, everything goes quickly once things begin kicking off. At that point, it feels like something is happening in every panel, and a lot of that is either intriguing, dramatic, or humorous.

Twelve Percent Dread isn’t afraid to dance around the ridiculous edge regarding the potential of technology. That’s the whole premise – discussing how technology has taken over our lives. The satire is real, and it isn’t always subtle. But it sure can get funny.

My one complaint about the second half of this graphic novel is that it just seems to…end. One moment we’re dealing with the climatic moments of the plot, and the next moment everything is over. There’s minimal wrap-up, and that leaves several questions unanswered. I suspect that this was intentional, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more clarity here and there.

Artwork

As always, I adore Emily McGovern’s art style, so I expected to like Twelve Percent Dread. And I did! I like some of the choices she made and the risks she took when it came to page layout and design.

It made for a different reading experience, though I think it paid off. Each page tended to be full of smaller and tighter panels, giving a broader view of events. At times this made it a little challenging to read the text, as everything is just a tad small. So if you have eyesight problems, include planned breaks while reading, or else you’ll risk some eyestrain.

The character designs were by far my favorite part of Twelve Percent Dread. Even with a more simplistic art style, it is delightfully easy to tell each character apart, even in a distant profile shot. (For those curious, Nasim is my favorite).

Conclusion

Overall I would have to say that I enjoyed Twelve Percent Dread. It wasn’t quite the smash-hit I was hoping for, but I’m still going to happily display it on my bookshelf, so that should tell you something. It’s a worthwhile read, especially if you’re hoping for a conversation starter.

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