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Dead Space: Salvage

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Written by Antony Johnston, Art by Christopher Sly
IDW, 104 pp.
Rating: Young Adults (16+)

Dead Space: Salvage is a graphic novel tie in to the Dead Space video game franchise. It’s set between the events of the first and second game and involves the rediscovery of the Ishimura, a space ship that was believed lost due to the events of the first game, by an illegal salvage operation. Thinking they’ve found a veritable treasure trove the salvage team boards the empty vessel, inadvertently sealing their own doom.

Dead Space: Salvage is a bit of an odd bird. As it’s set between the two Dead Space game’s it acts as a bridge, helping to set the stage for the second installment of the video game franchise. It’s written in such a way that it assumes that the reader has some knowledge of the Dead Space universe, whether it’s from the previous comics like myself, or from the games or even from all of the various multimedia tie ins. Certain things are referenced off hand and events are alluded to but not really explained or fleshed out. Because of this it’s not entirely new reader friendly. The story itself follows the standard horror movie plot to a T. A small group of characters are introduced who quickly find themselves in over their heads as horrible things begin to happen to them. The working class nature of the characters gives it a vibe reminiscent of the original Alien movie, but sadly due to it’s placement within the franchise it feels a bit less complete than that movie. To make matters worse the short length of the tale and the muddy artwork, which I’ll talk about more in a bit, result in the cast feeling very blank and less like fully realized characters who you’re invested in and more like the cannon fodder that occupies the less popular slasher flicks of the 80s.

Christopher Sly’s artwork is a bit of a double edged sword. It’s beautiful and atmospheric and does a great job at reinforcing the creepy mood you’d expect from a book taking place on an abandoned space vessel. Unfortunately it’s also quite stiff and incredibly unclear at times. The action sequences are awkward and stilted and the dark, murky artwork does no favors for the clarity of a number of sequences. The murky artwork unfortunately often means that characters’ appearances are a bit muddled and unclear as well, and the photo realistic quality to the faces oddly strips them of any emotional weight, leaving it all for Johnston’s dialogue to carry. What’s worse is that they did away with speech bubbles in order to show off the artwork and instead they simply placed white text on top of the artwork and used small lines to indicate which character is speaking. While it does help to give an unobstructed view of some lovely artwork, it also has the unfortunate side effect of being difficult to read, especially when the text is laid over light colored portions of the artwork. Still, there is some eye candy to be had from it. The ships are lovely to look at as our the costumes for the various characters and settings.

All in all it’s a mixed bag. While I enjoyed returning to the world of Dead Space, a franchise I’ve only previously interacted with via the original comic miniseries and the first animated movie, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. The shortness of the story and visuals lacked the punch and emotional hooks that made Antony Johnston’s first Dead Space series so enjoyable and engaging.

Dead Space: Salvage is available now from IDW Publishing and Emanga. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

Dirtbags, Mallchicks and Motorbikes

July 17, 2011 Leave a comment

by Dave Kiersh
self published, 137 pp.
Rating: Not Rated

Dirtbags, Mallchicks and Motorbikes from David Kiersh is a Xeric award winning collection of five short stories focusing on teenage angst as filtered through a fondness for the After School Specials of yesteryear.

This book is a bit hard to pin down. It is at times touching, hilarious and even eye rollingly cheesy. This is mostly due to the fact that it feels like a bit of a love song to simpler days of After School Specials about teens finding themselves, learning an important life lesson or some such. It’s not quite as clean cut as it sounds, there’s an undertone of naughtiness in many of the stories, ranging from a pervy store manager to one guy’s constant ogling of any woman that crosses his path, but the stories unravel in a similar manner with each story ending with an important lesson being learned. It’s not without it’s charm as some of the situations and the lengths the teens go to to get out of them can be wonderfully silly at times.

Kiersh’s artwork is a bit hard to pin down. There’s something incredibly familiar about it but damned if I can point my finger on what. It’s a bit simple and everything in it feels a bit anachronistic, including fashion, dialogue, vehicle designs. He does do a great job at conveying characters through body language and visual depictions as well, a leering and drooling lecherous store manager, a bubbly drunk girl at a party, a angry father’s face visibly contorting with rage and more.

It’s an odd and unique read and certainly not the kind of thing I ever expected to show up at Emanga, but then again they’re surprising me a lot lately with some choices they’ve made. That said I’m glad it was added as it’s certainly a charming book that I probably would never have read otherwise.

Dirtbags, Mallchicks and Motorbikes is available now from Davekcomics.com and Emanga. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Written by Jim Zubkavich, Art by Omar Dogan
Udon Entertainment, 128 pp.
Rating: Not Rated

Street Fighter Legends: Ibkuki is the the third installment of the Street Fighter Legends series which focuses on individual characters from the popular fighting game franchise. In this case it zeroes in on the young ninja giro, Ibuki, from the Street Fighter III game. Written by Jim Zubkavich with art from Street Fighter Legends mainstay Omar Dogna, Ibuki’s tale is one of a young girl struggling to maintain a balance between her duties to her ninja clan and her own desires to live like a normal teenage girl.

This book is a bit uneven and Jim Zubkavich simply has too many balls in the air. The main thrust of the series initially seems to be Ibuki’s desire to lead the life of a normal girl, something that alone would be a fine topic for the miniseries, but then you add in a ninja revenge plot, a friendly rivalry with the karate heiress Makoto, ninja tests against Oro, which in turn connects to Makoto’s own backstory, tensions with her best friend, the arrival of Elena and the story just becomes cluttered. Nothing is really given any time to develop properly and the result is a story that feels disjointed and uncentered. At times it almost feels like certain aspects were included without any real reason. Elena is a good example of this as she doesn’t really add anything to any of the plots. She’s simply there. Likewise the ninja revenge plot does a good bit to expand upon her backstory, but it’s introduced early on and by the time it’s reintroduced I had pretty much forgotten that it even existed in the first place. Despite my quibbles the book still manages to entertain though. The interaction between Makoto and Ibuki is generally pretty amusing and fun to watch and there’s a nice light hearted feel to the humor and the story in general that makes it pretty enjoyable.

Omar Dogan’s artwork is fantastic, but that’s to be expected. He handles the action scenes well and does a good job at keeping each characters likeness close to the original game designs while adding his own artistic flares. That said I did feel that his Makoto could have been a tad more butch, I seem to recall her being a bit more stocky in the game. The action scenes are clean and easy to follow and fans of the franchise may recognize some of the characters signature attacks and moves. In addition he handles the humor and quieter moments wonderfully as well, with a moment where Makoto is forced to choose between her duty and her desires being a particularly stand out moment.

Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki is hardly going to be mistaken for high literature of life changing material. While I can’t deny that it was a light and enjoyable read, I’d also be lying if I said it was a totally satisfying read. Some of the plot resolutions feel forced and I was left with the feeling that it was more of a collection of cool moments and good ideas held together by a rather shaky framework. It’s a fun read, but one with some glaring flaws that are hard to ignore.

Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki is available now from Udon Entertainment.

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