Dead Space: Salvage
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.