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.