Review: Mass Effect: Foundation (#6)

MEFND6Cover Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters (Writer) and Matthew Clarke (Artist).

Mass Effect: Foundation is a series of thirteen comics that explore the back stories of the companions encountered by Commander Shepard, the hero of the video game series Mass Effect.

In the previous issue, Miranda and Jacob set out to collect intel regarding the whereabouts of Commander Shepard’s body. Issue 6 picks up that story. Miranda is captured and Jacob is wounded. The plucky street kid from the last issue comes to the rescue, providing Jacob with a place to rest up, information on the whereabouts of his partner and the weapons to pull off a rescue. Her assistance costs a little more than cash. The Batarian thugs are holding her aunt as well.

Jacob gets to play the hero in this issue. Miranda, the damsel in distress. She doesn’t do distress well. In this particular instance, however, there are too many names to take, so she has to sit back and wait for rescue.

The story is all action and reasonably satisfying for it, especially as it’s a matter of all’s well that ends well. If you’ve played the Mass Effect games, that is not a spoiler. I did get the sense Mac Walters wanted to give Jacob a chance to shine. Might be too little, too late, though. The game is done and no amount of back story and previous heroics is going to make him more interesting. Then again, with the more details of his recruitment to Cerberus, he might flesh out a bit more in game.

What really lets this comic down is the art. It’s not bad art. The proportions are great, anatomy is spot on. The Batarians are really well-drawn, the panels convey action well enough. What’s missing is emotion. The faces are a bit simplified at times. The most disappointing aspect, however, is that Jacob still just doesn’t look like Jacob and Miranda doesn’t look like Miranda.

Mass Effect has an almost, no, a verifiably rabid fan base. There is a tonne of fan art out there. Comics, too. A good number of them have better depictions of all the companions. Still, as a dedicated fan of the non-rabid variety, I will continue to read these comics. Jack’s ‘Foundation’ story is coming up and that is one I do not want to miss.

Written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.

Review: Mass Effect: Foundation (#5)

20466 Mass Effect: Foundation (#5) by Mac Walters.

Miranda recruits Jacob to Cerberus by offering him a mission he can’t refuse: collecting Shepard’s body from the edge of the galaxy. They travel to the Terminus system to deal with Batarians. We all should know right there things are going to go awry.

This is an interesting installment in the series because it deals with the backstory of more than one character. We have Jacob’s induction into Cerberus, his and Miranda’s interest in finding Shepard, Kai Leng being all jealous at the beginning (he didn’t get the coveted mission) and TIM being his usual, charming, complicated self. There is also a good slice of action and a hint of plot that will take us beyond a single issue of the comic.

I didn’t get to know Jacob any better. He’s as uninteresting here as he is in the game. I know, poor Jacob. But not every character can be compelling. We need some to just sit back and reflect the glory of others. Miranda’s interest in Shepard is…interesting. I assume it’s a scientific thing, but for players who romanced her, more could be read between the lines. Perhaps.

Agent Rasa’s involvement serves as another introduction, but this time the entire comic seems to take place in the past, rather offer a glimpse of it. I assume this is because Rasa is a Cerberus agent, and so in place for this foundation story.

I did enjoy the story in this comic. I also liked the way many of the panels highlighted expression and directed the action. The story and art flowed really seamlessly from place to place. But Miranda didn’t look quite like Miranda and there were some instances where I thought Jacob had been swapped out for Mr. T., but with more hair.

The cliffhanger ending means I will be looking into the next issue, but I do wonder if my attachment to all things Mass Effect plays a greater part in me continuing to read this series. Probably, but I imagine the comics were created to take advantage of just that. It’s not that the stories aren’t interesting. They are. I think where the series feels off to me is Agent Rasa. I get that she’s a unifying element, but I’m not convinced she’s necessary. As a fan, I’d be just as happy to sit down and read through an ordered series of prequels.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Review: The Last of Us: American Dreams

18101264 The Last of Us: American Dreams by Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks

‘The Last Of Us’ is a comicbook based on the recently released video game of the same name. The setting is post-apocalyptic and the main character is Ellie, the young girl featured on the cover of the game. The comic serves as a prequel. This review covers the first four issues as collected in the first trade edition, ‘The Last Of Us: American Dreams’.

Ellie arrives at what appears to be a school for orphaned children. It’s not immediately obvious why there are so many of them, but there are enough hints that the reader gains the idea the world outside is not safe. There is mention of the infected and security is tight and there are a lot of heavies with guns dotted throughout the pages.

After going through a typical initiation, lets beat up the new kid, Ellie befriends Riley, an older girl who is just shy of sixteen. Riley shares the bitter news that on her sixteenth birthday, she’ll be shoved out into the world and given a gun, forced to join the fighting ranks. Riley wants another option, one that is going to involve Ellie, whether she likes it or not.

Riley has an unhealthy interest in the Fireflies, who seem to be a military outfit at odds with the regular forces. It’s unclear if they are at the opposite end of the fight or simply do things differently. When the pair catch up with the Fireflies, things don’t go quite as planned. (Wouldn’t be as exciting, otherwise!)

Chapter four, the last issue collected in this book, reveals the answers to a lot of questions. What type of school Ellie was in and why she was there. The reader also learns about the Fireflies. It’s a very tense chapter and definitely inspires interest in the rest of the story. Previously unexplored sides of Riley and Ellie are exposed, deepening their characters.

I like more painterly art between the chapters that preface the action to come. The soft colours are a nice contrast to the bolder lines and colours of the comic book pages. I also like the pages that tell the story visually rather than rely on dialogue or comments. There are a good proportion of them and they very clearly convey both action and mood. They’re well-conceived. The last few pages feature a series of concept sketches. I always appreciate those additions to the collected editions of comic books.

I enjoyed this comic and I’d definitely keep up with the series. I would like to know more about the world, but I wasn’t overly frustrated by the slow reveal. The infected are zombies and there have been enough books and movies about zombies that I can draw some rudimentary conclusions. What sets this story apart, at present, is the characters. Yes, we’ve seen zombies before. We’re almost numbed to the horror of them. But this is the first time I’ve seen a young female protagonist. It makes a refreshing change.

Review written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.

This review was cross posted from Goodreads, which doesn’t always correctly attribute the writers and artists of comic books, so here’s a complete list of credits: Writer: Faith Erin Hicks, Neil Druckmann. Artist: Faith Erin Hicks. Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg. Cover Artist: Julian Totino Tedesco