October 14, 2008

Alive in Dead Space: The Comic Series

Review

Dead Space comicThe written word is an amazing thing. Free of any kind of delivery, and interpreted through your own imagination, a piece of literature can be as brilliant or corny as you envision it. That's why I implore you, if you're interested in the Dead Space extended universe, to pick up the six-issue comic series. Do not touch the online animated comics.

While they may be free, these videos sour what is ultimately a nice little bit of fiction. With comics, a reader fills in the blanks, imagining the voices of characters in their heads, and the movements they make between the snapshots of panels. Through neanderthalic voice acting and stiff animation, the videos replace your imagination with that of a five-year-old's.

Dead Space opening panel
Not exactly brilliant writing, but they ARE fucked.

Perhaps the videos simply reveal the comic for what it truly is, a bite-sized chunk of pulpy horror/sci-fi. Maybe it's simply my excitement for the Dead Space game that had me filling in the blanks in my own colorful terms. But what's here is certainly solid - especially as a prelude to a greater story.

The comics explain the events that take place on Aegis 7, a colony planet and destination of the Ishimura, the ship you explore in the Dead Space video game. An alien artifact is excavated from the planet's surface and it immediately has a negative effect on the colony. As depression and psychotic episodes become more and more frequent, the Unitologists, a religious sect, praise the artifact as a "marker," a sign of their ascension. The situation escalates, and soon the colony is overrun by undead creatures straight out of The Thing.

Unitology
Unitologists = Scientologists?

The comic is most interesting for its horror elements - some of the brutality shown throughout the story is quite shocking. It's made all the more grim through the wonderful artwork of Ben Templesmith, who mixes light, Ratatouille-esque character designs with dreary, monochromatic backdrops. Similar to his work in Warren Ellis' Fell, the style creates a harsh juxtaposition between depressing darkness and cartoony exaggeration.

ben templesmith's art
Fig 1A. Juxtaposition

It will be interesting to see how relevant this story is to the remaining pieces. Will Unitology play a part in the game and animated movie? Will the marker/alien artifact be explained? There are questions, and I'm interested to see how it all pans out. In that respect, this comic is a resounding success. The Dead Space comic series isn't enough on its own, but as the beginning of a larger crossmedia piece it gives just enough to spark interest.
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