Sail the moon

In one manner or another, I’ve been reading comics since I learned to read. The confession part comes in the fact that I don’t feel I started reading really good comics until Advanced English II, my sophomore year in high school. My friend Stephanie brought in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Volume I: Preludes & Nocturnes; my mind was appropriately blown. In college, Cap’n Perkins introduced me to Morrison’s The Invisibles. Upon reaching Chicago, I took it upon myself to take a crash course in comic book history and the greats of the last few decades.

There now sits an entire bookshelf full of comic trades next to another bookshelf full of more ‘lofty’ titles, plays, and children’s literature.

Dead Space has been on my radar for any number of reasons. Its seemingly cunning use of a HUD that builds itself seamlessly into the world I’m seeing, zero gravity puzzles, and taking the concept of zombies and doing something intriguing with it. I’m a horror junkie, especially when it’s done well. This does not mean that horror needs to scare me (I’m much better at scaring myself than any outside source can ever be), but I do expect it to hinder the protagonist in some manner. We’re rapidly moving away from horror just occurring and being played by common, every day folk–but I believe any good genre can expand itself and try out new things.

So, when I found out that Ben Templesmith was involved in a comic of Dead Space, I was intrigued, to put it mildly. I believe I’ve read something of Antony Johnston’s, perhaps a tribute to Alan Moore, but I cannot recall any great body of work of his I’ve read. I’ve observed Templesmith’s artwork in the 30 Days of Night series and have started his collaboration with Warren Ellis (who also wrote some material for the game, though he’s not sure how much of it survives in the game itself) on Fell, so my attention was primarily directed toward that aspect. The man’s artwork lends itself to the horror genre extremely well. His purposeful use of broader depictions and hazy lines draw one’s eyes to the pure grotesqueness of the world one observes.

While Cap’n Perkins was here we visited GameTrailers.com and watched the animated comic through episode five (six having released just this Tuesday). While the voice acting was particularly less than stellar, I enjoyed the story. Much like with Deus Ex, Bioshock, and other titles who provide optional plot, this was an intriguing take on providing information to those who desire it, while allowing those who care just about blasting apart Necromorphs. There’s a small catch, however. Just because I like this idea and the plot presented, does not guarantee I’ll enjoy the game:

Here are the problems Cap’n Perkins and I potentially saw: the art direction of the game does not follow the comic. The events of the game are even further removed from the game by an animated movie, Dead Space: Downfall, when the Necromorphs move from the colony to the USG Ishimura, where Isaac, the protagonist, encounters them. This poses an intriguing question concerning the colony and whether there will be sequels. Presumably, I’m not really going to see any of the characters from the animated comic, as they’re on the planet’s colony and the events of the game are on the Ishimura; even if I do, their attachment to Isaac remains dubious at best.

However, I can easily say I like it (and having no idea how the game concludes, I may well have my questions answered yet). In an era of gaming where I have to order Collector’s Editions of games to get little goodies that make me thrill to open a game box (or lunch box, as the case may be with Fallout 3), this serves as a welcome substitute. It also shows there is some thought into the plot and world beyond just the scope of the game. While I am sure there are other games which build such worlds, it is refreshing to actually experience it. This is also a story that is fully fleshed, not just a shambling skeleton in someone’s design closet.

Would I buy this comic by itself? As long as the voice acting didn’t come with it, that would be a resounding yes (granted it came in trade form). Will it add to my enjoyment of the game? I’ll get back to you on that one. The marketing behind this does excite me, though. Rather than just releasing trailers of rendered images, I actually enjoy looking at Templesmith’s take on Dead Space; I can watch game footage whenever I please, separately.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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11 Responses to Sail the moon

  1. You do know that the animated comics cover the same story featured in a series of actual print comics, right?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Space_(comics)I have comics 1 through 4, though haven’t yet picked up 5.

  2. Denis Farr says:

    I figured this would be the case, though I tend not to ever buy pamphlets, preferring trades. Any news on whether they’ll be collecting them into one volume?

  3. With all of the angles from which we approached Dead Space, we never directly talked voice acting. I didn’t notice it either way and didn’t realize you were less than impressed.With that particular style of ‘animation’ where lips and figures aren’t truly articulated, I assumed that the producers just wanted distinct sounding voices so as to reduce confusion to the viewing LCD. And I thought the voices fit their archetypes fairly well. Though it did remove subtlety, the actions of the main players were so polarized that any nuanced acting beyond their singularly driven personas would have seemed out of place for me. Unless we’re talking about the core protagonist there isn’t much time in a 7 minute clip to allow characters to muse about doubts they have or to give them development scenes.I actually liked the bored drawl of the girl in charge of communications (can’t think of her name right now). She tried deciphering the marker.***To expand upon my feelings on the plot: I liked this comic/cartoon and it made me want more of this world and these characters, thus I immediately considered buying the game and that’s when I knew I had been snared.The authors of the comic didn’t write the story or dialog for the game and as you already stated its a completely different art direction. The most glaring issue for me was that the nature of the game almost guarantees that I will never again see these interesting conflicted characters whom have little mysteries surrounding them.It would be akin to giving someone a 45 minute “best of” movie culled from the original Star Wars Trilogy as a hype product for the NEW Star Wars trilogy. You can be sure that on the strength of the hype product I would right go out and buy that new trilogy on DVD, (and this would be an equivalent to the price of a 360 game) only to discover that the 2nd trilogy looked different, had different characters, had worse writing, worse acting, and worse plot.So really this is an issue of enjoying free product, but not making assumptions about the game based upon it. I think that’s my point. And I’m still excited for the game, my expectations are just built around legitimate data instead of the comic.

  4. Denis Farr says:

    Oh, I definitely think they wanted something distinct and give the listener the ability to distinguish voices so as to not confuse them (we expect lips to be moving). With that, I agree. The delivery often seems stilted and forced, however. The emphasis at times also seems somewhat awkward and cumbersome. Some were actually quite decent, but others left me pondering why exactly they chose that particular delivery.Right. The game seems like it is not banking on this comic, but merely using it to supplement the story–which I like. It is definitely engaging, and from an angle I did not expect. I had read the Hellgate: London comic, but it was released with the game, and the writing wasn’t nearly as good.

  5. Have you heard of, or visited, the < HREF="http://www.noknownsurvivors.com/" REL="nofollow">No Known Survivors<> website?It’s flash based and feels like a point and click adventure game. It’s got several chapters and deals with some of the characters from Dead Space and their fate. You need to listen to recorded messages and read E-Mails and explore rooms to puzzle together what’s happen to each person. That’s actually what I thought you were going to post about.I’m surprised to hear you bring up the voice acting in Dead Space. I accept it’s not brilliant but I found it far less irritating that most games, and thought the use of a number of regional dialects and basically, normal sounding characters to be much more fitting for the situation. Better than having everybody sound like “Generic Action Hero # 2”.As for the art style not matching the game, I like that. I mean how many different art styles have been used over the years for Batman or Superman? I like having different takes on a core idea it somehow makes it feel more realised.

  6. Denis Farr says:

    Cap’n Perkins and I tried the No Known Survivors website, but it was being finicky and wanted much more interaction than we were willing to give that particular day (I believe it wanted us to fill in some answers, but we were just browsing trailers when this particular game sidetracked us). It seemed interesting, but didn’t give much instruction. Will have to revisit it.The voice acting is certainly much better than many videogames, but I don’t feel that says much. They definitely raised the bar some, and as Perkins said, the regional dialects were almost necessary so as not to create too much confusion if there was a dialog occurring. I feel that if it’s the only slight let down in the entire video, it’s still going strong.Agreed on the art direction front. I’m just wondering how many people will expect something similar and how many people will even know about the comics. It’s great, but can be misleading based on what we’ve seen before in videogames.What does this mean? We need to untrain some of what we expect, I believe.Since you were able to more fully explore No Known Survivors, perhaps you should give a go at explicating it? Or have you already and I hadn’t started reading your blog yet?

  7. The site is updated each Monday so I avoided it for a few weeks so there’d be more content when I returned, which I plan to do over this weekend.I’m sure a post will follow sometime in the week. As my apparently series on sequels is rapidly going out the window for the moment.

  8. antony says:

    Just a small thing, guys, but “the author of the comic” – that would be me, then – did actually write the game script, as well. And the stories for No Known Survivors. So while you’re right that the visual side of the game isn’t based on Ben’s work, the story side is consistent throughout.

  9. Denis Farr says:

    That is excellent news, Antony. I’m glad that there will then be a consistent ‘voice’ (quotations to denote I’m not sure if that’s the word we want to use) among the game, comic, and movie. As I enjoyed the writing and themes presented in the comic, it makes me glad to know what I can conceivably expect of the game itself.

  10. antony says:

    Oh, and the collection of the DEAD SPACE comics is solicited now, on release Dec 3. I got my comps just the other day, and it looks lovely :) Hardcover only, mind.

  11. Anthony, knowing you wrote the script for the game jumps it right into a must buy situation.Thank you for setting us straight.

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