Review: Mass Effect Foundation (#8)

MEFND8CoverThe beginning of the eighth issue of Mass Effect: Foundation deals with the aftermath of Kai Leng and Agent Rasa’s failure to capture Jack in the previous issue. The tension between them seems worse than the repercussions of their failure. Kai Leng’s facial expressions here are so well drawn! Between that and his posture, his fury is clearly evident and somewhat reminiscent of the Kai Leng fans will remember from later in the game.

The pair return to the Minuteman Station where Leng is ordered to depart again, right away, to attend a summons by the Illusive Man. Rasa is introduced to the Lazarus Project where she learns the value of the intel she has gathered on Commander Shepard.

We get a glimpse of Shepard here, and it’s not pretty, neither is the suggestion about how they restored his body. In order to complete the project, however, they need more information. Agent Rasa is dispatched to the Citadel to steal classified records from the Spectre’s offices. The assignment is one of an all but impossible nature and it turns out to be as difficult as she expected. With a little help from a mysterious drell assassin, she might survive.

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Preview the comic at Dark Horse.

This is my favourite issue so far. The flagging momentum as the pieces of the story are collected in previous issues really picks up as we learn the purpose of Agent Rasa’s research. Her own difficulties–the rivalry with Kai Leng and the mission to the Citadel–kick the story into high gear. The hint regarding Shepard’s recovery delivers an emotional punch.

The art didn’t distract me this time, either. There are a few panels where I had a hard time figuring out what was going on, but in general, the action is portrayed well and there are lots of lovely close ups of emotional expressions that are very nicely done.

With only three issues remaining, Mass Effect: Foundation is finally delivering on its promise. Now they just have to keep the momentum going.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Review: Mass Effect: Foundation (#7)

MEFndtn7CoverFinally, it’s the of ‘Mass Effect: Foundation‘ comic I have been waiting for. Number seven, or Jack’s issue. Jack is a companion and possible love interest for the main character, Commander Shepard, in the game Mass Effect 2. She also appears in Mass Effect 3.

Jack, formerly known as Subject Zero, is a powerful biotic with a tortured past. She was ‘acquired’ as a child by Cerberus and subjected to terrible experiments aimed at producing a human biotic with exceptional power. A biotic has an element in their bloodstream that allows them to move matter with a gesture and a thought.

In the comic, Jack breaks into a Cerberus training facility. After dealing with the administrator, she attempts to liberate the students, most of whom believe they are orphans. Given Cerberus’ tactics, they probably are. Jack shares a snippet of her past in order to motivate the students to move.

Kai Leng and Agent Rasa are dispatched by the Illusive Man to pick her up. Rasa notes the Blue Suns have been sent in as backup, which seems unusual, until she discovers exactly what she is up against with Subject Zero. In Mass Effect 2, Kai Leng proves a difficult (and annoying) foe. In this comic, Jack tosses him around like a toy and there’s a certain sense of satisfaction to be gained from seeing it.

I’m not sure how this snippet of Jack’s past ties in with the over all story arc of the series. Perhaps there will be some mention in a later issue.

On to the art. I like the cover, but the first image of Jack inside makes me cringe. She looks too baby-faced and unless you know her torso is covered in tattoos, you’d think she’s wearing a chaotically patterned jumpsuit. Granted, her tattoos are hard to draw and quite often throughout the comic, artist Garry Brown suggests rather than paints. That seems indicative of his style, in fact. A lot of the panels lack details such as faces and attitude engraved with thicker lines. I don’t mind the style; it suits the busier panels and with the features of so many characters being less distinct, there is less fault to find.

Over all, this is one of the least satisfying issues in the series, thus far. I learned nothing new about my favourite companion, Jack, and the adventure did not advance the greater story arc. Still, I will doggedly continue with issue number eight in the hopes my persistence will pay off.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

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.

Story: Sunshine

Two hundred years after the Reaper War, John Shepard remembers only that he was once a man and that he made a choice. As a ghost, he roams the galaxy, attention called by disparate events, until a ripple of ‘something’ calls him to the Kepler Verge.

Kat and Finch are mercenary engineers charged with making repairs on a derelict frigate. The ship is supposed to be un-powered except for the sync mechanism in the repaired circuitry. Something goes wrong and the ship blows apart.

Shepard has to decide whether to save the two people trapped in the wreckage. It’s not a simple choice and the repercussions of his actions will have consequences no one is prepared for.

~~~

“Sunshine” is a Mass Effect fan fiction written for the Mass Effect Big Bang, Fall 2013.
***Warning: Includes Mass Effect 3 ending spoilers***
Mass Effect belongs to BioWare. Artwork by Whuffie. Full Acknowledgements at Ao3

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one

His favourite colour had always been blue. The ocean, the sky, those flecks of unexpected cobalt embedded in grey stone, cornflowers, morning glory, the eyes reflected in a mirror. The Alliance. Earth from space. The charge beneath his skin, the glow that outlined his fingers at a thought, vapour licking at his heels as he sped through space, the ball of cleansing fire loosed at his enemies.

The fine tracery of veins beneath skin painted a blue so dark it was almost black—except where it wasn’t.

When he died, the galaxy turned blue. White blue flames licked over his arms, dissolving his skin in a cleansing fire of ethereal pain. He remembered the pain. He remembered coming apart, the process of being undone as motes of self pulled free, faster and faster until he lost cohesion. His voice was the last thing to fade; a moan that grew louder, shuddered through him, trying and failing to hold him together, maintain the integrity of being. The last sound a roar, a primordial cry as he became as infinite as the stars.

He did not remember his name. A whisper caressed the nascent bubble of being he carried within. The memory of a sound like the ocean. A sigh. A single kernel of self rippled beneath his touch, knowing without knowing, that it was his.

He did not remember whose skin had been painted with lines, but he knew it had been a person. One being, as distinct from the pulse of occupied space.

But he knew he had died. That thought was known to him, as was his current reality. He knew he was no longer a he, but the pronoun gave him a sense of self. He suspected needing such a sense, requiring it, ran counter to his objective, but he had been at work for a long, long time. And time had rippled and bunched, the flow inexorable, unsteady. A piece of it awaited him right there, and he slipped into it, the space of nothingness, and he breathed.

He was infinite. He remembered everything known by a thousand thousand species. He remembered nothing.

He remembered blue.

continue reading at Ao3