Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Darkness: Levels (Comic)

In order to increase output, this blog will be gaining video game-based comic book reviews. The reason behind this is because comic books are another way to tell more of the story of a game as well as explain things that aren't touched upon. Adaptations of games, such as the subject of this review, can also be good if done properly, especially if the concept can work for/originated from a comic book. To start things off I will be reviewing The Darkness: Levels, a 6-issue mini-series (numbered Levels 0-5) made by Top Cow to promote the video game, The Darkness, which seems like a natural step since the game was based on the similarly-named comic book. I decided the best thing to do was to read this mini-series via trade paperback after playing the game, and for the most part it's a rather good adaptation, though there are changes from the game (which itself has differences from the mythos of the base comic).

The story itself is similar in structure to the game it adapts, although some events are changed in both content and placement. For instance, a scene in the game involving Jackie chasing down Eddie Shrote, head of the NYPD, is replaced with a scene in what appears to be a strip club where Eddie escapes from a fire caused by Jackie, but is still soon followed up by another scene with Shrote in a church (which incidentally is called Cold Springs church/cemetery here instead of Trinity church/cemetery in the game). Another example involves changing the order of events, where the death of Jenny, Jackie's girlfriend, is moved to be immediately after the scene with Dutch Oven Harry in the game, and the area of her death is in her own apartment rather than another building she was kidnapped to, although in both cases The Darkness prevented its host from interfering. Despite these differences, among others, the structure is kept as Jackie going after Paulie, dying once, going after Eddie, dying again, and achieving his goal of revenge. On the bright side, characterization is kept intact and we also get a scene that develops the background character Charles Hazelgrove as well as an entire issue (Level 0) that gives more exposition to Anthony Estacado, the one who brought The Darkness into his family.

The artwork, though different between each issue, is really impressive, especially in Levels 0 and 1 where it is positively gorgeous. While each of the six artists presents a different style in each issue, there is still a lot of consistency is what everything is supposed to look like. Each style is good in their own ways, going from the painting-like qualities of Levels 0 and 1 to art more akin to the original comic in Levels 2 and 3 until becoming more gritty in Levels 4 and 5, and they all in different ways help to preserve the tone of the story at their respective points. Within the art though, a few things pop up that never appear in the game, but were probably used to appeal to readers more familiar with the comic. Jackie's Darkness armor appears a couple of times in the middle of the story, while otherwise his Darkness mode is more like in the game (I looked when I used a Darkness power while playing), and at one point he uses a two-handed gun made from The Darkness that he didn't use in that fiction. However I think the art and story changes help bring something new to the comic to help it stand out on its own from the source material(s).

The writing of The Darkness: Levels, like the artwork, is very solid. Paul Jenkins and David Wohl do a great job translating the events of the game into a comic book form, including Paul Jenkins' solo work on Level 0. Not only does the comic retain the game's dark atmosphere, it also has a sense of humor at times like the original comic. As I've said, what helps the writing is the exposition given to Charles Hazelgrove, in that we get to learn more about his character and feel for his predicament, in addition to telling more about Anthony Estacado. We also get a better understanding of the iteration of hell from the game when Jackie converses with a "German" demon on his way to a castle (replacing the part in the game where you have to look for a shell for a ginormous death cannon).

If you are a fan of either the game or comic, The Darkness: Levels is a comic for you. Not only does it transfer the game to a comic faithfully while creating its own identity, the combined work of the writing and art display the amount of care and effort put into the project to achieve the end result. If you decide to read this comic, I suggest obtaining a trade paperback, as you will also be treated to a gallery of concept art for the game, which you can also unlock in-game after collecting enough phone numbers.

No comments:

Post a Comment