Written by: Antony Johnston
A distant human colony discover that they aren’t as alone as they first thought…
As the dead begin to rise as horrific monsters, can P-SEC Sgt. Abraham Neumann contain the threat? What role does the mysterious Church of Unitology have in all of this? And can any of them make it out alive…?
Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today, Heather Royston will be reviewing Antony Johnston and Ben Templesmith’s graphic novel Dead Space, based on the video game of the same name. Without any further ado, I’ll turn this over to Heather.
Signed in human blood,
Sean Lee Levin
It’s time for another shameful admission, folks. I have not yet played Dead Space. Neither the original nor the sequels. It’s not been a matter of not wanting to; I have owned Dead Space since it came out originally, and it’s always been near the top of the “To Play” stack. It’s just that, as much as I love gaming, I just can’t find the time to play everything I want. I usually end up playing RPG style games more than anything, just to lose myself in the fantasy. My husband did play it and raved about it constantly. I’ve read so many reviews of the game and I’ve been told countless times that I’m crazy for not experiencing the awesomeness that is Dead Space. One day, I promise I’m going to play it. But for now, I’ve got a handful of graphic novels that follow the storyline. The first one, simply titled Dead Space, is a prequel to the game.
Dead Space tells the story of Bram Neumann, a sergeant with CEC’s security force. His job is to police the colony of workers, and keep the peace during a two and a half year “planet cracking” project. During said project, a team unearths a strange looking stone monument covered in strange symbols. It is said to resemble a “Marker,” an artifact of some importance to the Unitologist religion. Soon after its discovery, the colonists begin suffering from insomnia and hallucinations. Some completely break down, while others convert to Unitology and throw themselves into religious devotion. Just when Bram thinks it can’t get any worse, it does. Something strange is found in the air vents, and a catastrophic event sends the colony into a mass panic. The bodies pile up, then rise again; mutated into something horrific.
The writer, Antony Johnston, did a fantastic job writing this story. I was already familiar with Johnston’s work, having read a few of his Alan Moore adaptations and a bit of his series, Wasteland. I was unaware of the level of his involvement in the Dead Space series. He wrote the script for the first game, two follow ups called Extraction and Ignition, a mobile version of Dead Space, and a series of webisodes called No Known Survivors. It makes perfect sense that he would be writing the prequel stories as well, since he seems to know more about the universe than anyone. The first few pages of the book are character backgrounds, giving insight into why each character reacts the way they do. Having that was a huge help. This is one of those stories that didn’t need much set up, especially if you know anything about the game, but a little information is always good. The story itself flows very well, and ends perfectly where the game should begin. The book also includes a side story called Extraction, about the event spreading to the Ishimura, the ship that comes to the colony to initiate the planetcrack. Through the original story you mostly hear people complaining about the ship and it’s claimed superiority, and there is a storyline implying that the captain of the Ishimura is in on some sort of religious conspiracy involving the Marker but we don’t get to see the ship or anyone else one it. Seeing the other side of things was interesting also.
Ben Templesmith is probably my favorite artist. I’ve been a fan ever since my husband brought home Criminal Macabre from the comic shop years ago. I own a great number of comics that he has drawn and written. So believe me when I say that I loved the artwork in this book. I’m struggling to find a word to describe it, I may have to invent one for it. His style is perfectly suited for the horror genre, and I find that he can always give me the shivers with just a few brushstrokes. Each character has their own “physical personality,” a distinct expression for each level of anger, concentration, confusion, pain, fear and so on. There are some artists out there who just can’t seem to grasp that human faces express feelings just as much as words do (I’ve read a lot of comics that seem to be starring a certain actress who is known for lacking severely in that department) but Templesmith never fails to bring that out. As always, I am most impressed with his use of color to convey the tones of each scene. A single glace between the color of the page and the faces of each person could tell the whole story on its own. The book includes a cover gallery, sketches and alternate page sequences that are flat out amazing. I love seeing this stuff, especially the sketches. Getting to see the early stages, before the colors and dialog, is always a treat, but from someone like Ben Templesmith it’s a bit mind blowing.
Final Thoughts:Despite not having played the game, the Dead Space graphic novel plays well as a standalone story or as a prequel for what must be an incredible game. I look forward to not only playing the hell out of this game and the sequels but also reading the other graphic novels which I have received and you will all be hearing about shortly. I award Dead Space 5 out of 5 tentacles.
Heather Royston – Assistant Editor/Reviewer/Reporter