I’m currently following three comics. Seeing as they land the same week, I’ve decided to cross post all three reviews at once. I could devote a whole week to comics every month, but I’m always reading other stuff I want to talk about and I’ve been writing a lot as well, which limits posting time. I might make this a monthly feature instead.
Because I always remember to post monthly features.
(I am going to post a Reading Challenge Update this week.)
On with the reviews!
Mass Effect: Foundation is a series of comics exploring the back stories of the companions available to the player character Shepard in the trilogy of video games, ‘Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3’. With issue nine, we return to the formula established early on, which is both good and bad.
After a brief check in with Agent Rasa where we learn she is recovering from the poison, we dive off the deep end into another seemingly disconnected story. I can only assume what follows is a ‘re-enactment’ of events, much like the episode where we explored Kaidan Alenko’s past. This time, we’re looking in on Dr. Mordin Solus, famed Salarian biologist…and more. Mordin is a fascinating character and I looked forward to learning more about him. None of the issues thus far has really told us anything we didn’t already know however or could not have surmised from the clues hidden in every companion conversation throughout the three games. The point of these comics seems to be to illustrate moments rather than add to canon.
Mordin is tasked with developing a new strain of the genophage, a bio-engineered plague that was used to sterilize the war-like Krogan in an effort to stop them from breeding destruction. A month or so later, Mordin travels to Tuchanka to conduct tests. This is where we get a glimpse of the beginnings of the remorse Mordin so obliquely expresses in-game. He makes note of the architecture and ruins and comments that he was not aware the Krogan were capable of such feats. He also ponders the purpose of his work. Both are observations we encounter later, in ‘Mass Effect 3’.
Mordin and his team encounter a Krogan female and a fight ensues. We get to see our favourite salarian kicking ass and taking names, which is both gratifying and somewhat uncomfortable, given the nature of his work.
Mordin’s voice is captured perfectly in this comic. I could hear him in my head, which is exactly how it should be when reading characters you’ve heard/seen elsewhere. The salarians, in general, acted as salarians do, bickering and fighting. The time frame confused me. From the game, I got the impression the salarians were on Tuchanka for a lot longer than the comic indicated. Maybe this episode recalls a different visit?
No particular comments on the artwork this time ‘round. It did what it was supposed to do. I can’t say as Mordin was completely recognisable, but his distinct ‘voice’ separated him from the other salarians well enough.
The cover of issue two of ‘Pariah’ makes me giggle. It’s so very teen-age. Inside, we have skipped forward forty-three days since the Vitros (genetically modified humans – intelligent and precocious) have been launched into orbit on a derelict space station. Between looking for more booby traps, the Vitros are scavenging local space junk. Brandon, our narrator for this issue calls his group ‘orbital dumpster divers’, which he thinks makes a great band name. I agree.
Samantha has become the lead ‘science person’ or as Brandon prefers, their science officer. I love this observation. It feels very human and age appropriate, though I’d likely make the same comment and I’m a lot older than the Vitros. Also, he has a crush on her, which is adorable. His girlfriend, Lila, probably wouldn’t agree. His observations regarding Lila are bittersweet. She’s obsessed with returning to Earth and has been spending a lot of time with Hyde. The pair are, quote: Thick as thieves.
Marks discovers a data feed coming from the station. The content seems like an attempt to unsettle Earth. Lila blames Brandon for not keeping tabs on such things. They have the sort of fight that plagues degrading relationships. Regardless, Brandon sets out to find the source of the data feed.
Sam suggests he poke around the underdecks. She also suggests next time they visit they talk about something more interesting. She’s obviously flirting and it’s obviously geeky. The rest of his search confirms only one thing, Lila is probably right about the group needing strong leadership.
Along with Robert Maudsley, Brandon tracks down the culprit and one of Samantha’s ‘fixes’ helps disable the kid. The problem is solved, but Brandon and Lila’s relationship is not resolved. She has a secret she won’t share and even youngsters in love know that’s just not a good thing.
I really enjoyed Brandon’s headspace. His point of view is so young male and the perfect tone for this chapter. He feels despondent, which matches the passage of time and the undercurrent of the entire group. They’re alive, but they’re not going anywhere. The group is fracturing into small cliques, some of which are doing useful things, some of which are not, unless you call a working still useful. I would.
The reveal at the end of the issue feels somewhat hopeful and sinister at the same time. I also think that catching up with Maudsley is about more than the authors remembering he’s there. I’ve been wondering what he’s up to and hoping for another issue from his creepy point of view.
As always, the art continues to compliment the tale of stranded teenagers perfectly. The washed-out colours in this issue also reflected Brandon’s despondency. I really like the way each issue encapsulates a slice of time for these kids while advancing the overall story. The comic feels truly episodic, rather than a book that’s been broken up into parts.
As always, I’m looking forward to the next issue.
I waited until after release day for this review so I could say more than ‘hey, this is a great comic, go buy it’. Still, I prefer not to give away spoilers in my reviews, so what I have here is the briefest outline and another recommendation that you go out and buy these comics.
Issue three of ‘Leaves on the Wind’ picks up the story right where we left off. River is dreaming. She is holding the position of observer in her own dream, which is a really neat effect. Works well in this format. When she gets overly restless, Simon tries to wake her up but is interrupted by an unexpected visitor. Jubal.
Meanwhile, Mal and Inara are talking about practical matters, like how Mal is trying to worry for everyone. No amount of worry will fill their bellies, though, it’s time to break into the emergency rations he has hidden away in Inara’s shuttle. Jubal meets him there.
Jayne attempts to commiserate with Bea, but he’s just not the touchy-feely type. Chastising himself, he leaves her for a bit. When Bea next looks up, she has another guest in the kitchen. Not realising Jubal is not part of the crew, she introduces herself and offers him coffee.
So, Jubal has trussed up half the ship. Inara and Jayne are locked in their rooms. Now it’s time to interrogate his prisoners. He asks after the rest of the crew – Shephard, Wash and Zoe – and Mal delivers news of their various fates in as few words as possible.
“It’s been a tough couple of years for you guys, hasn’t it?”
“It’s had it’s ups and downs.”
Understatements of the century, and typical of the dialogue I’d expect from this series. Jubal certainly finds it amusing. Just as he realises he’s forgotten someone, Kaylee makes her appearance. It’s a pretty sweet moment.
With Jubal chained to a chair and quaking from Kaylee’s threats, the crew reconvene to see if River remembers anything. She does. You’ll need to read the comic to see what she has to say. Her revelation alters the course of Zoe’s rescue, however, and inspires Mal to look up another old friend.
This is another great issue of the comic. The story is tight. There is plenty of fan service on top of a strong plot delivery. The art continues to capture action and emotional nuance, even if the faces sometimes take a moment to process. I think this would be less of a problem in the collected editions where the reader can skip from one chapter to the next. The dialogue is firming up and as I’ve already mentioned, the story needs no work whatsoever. I’m hooked.
All reviews written for SFCrowsnest.