Saturday, August 11, 2012

Uncharted (Comic) - A Thrilling Addition To The Franchise

I am aware now that even though the blog's header is emblazoned with the promise of reviews for licensed video game comics, only three exist so far (and all are done by the same person). Since there's time before the next major video game release and I don't really have anything to build up to, I've decided to try and rectify that.

It appears that if a video game series is popular enough or if they want to generate hype, they'll create a comic book adaptation. This isn't in itself a bad thing, since it gives the series another opportunity to expand on its own universe without requiring millions of dollars and years of coordinated effort. In the case of the Uncharted comic, the subject of this review, it was made during production of Uncharted 3 and since the first issue around the game's November 2011 release, it effectively counts as a tie-in comic, in fact being a six-issue miniseries. As someone who is a fan of the Uncharted franchise, as well as comic books, I knew as soon as I heard about it that I needed to read it. I did so and over the course of six months found myself anticipating each new issue, enjoying the sight of a brand new tale unfold. Four months after the final issue release, I'm here to say that the journey is very much worth a look.

After completing a treasure hunting job, Nathan Drake divides the spoils with his partner Flynn, who parts ways with him after Nathan takes the one thing he was looking for: a journal. Victor Sullivan, aka Sully, wonders how it could be of any value to their employers, Michael and Rose Doughty, but Drake notices that the journal is in code and translates it to figure out its value. It turns out that the journal is also the flight record of Richard Evelyn Byrd, who discovered a place called the Amber Room within the confines of the Arctic. When they learn more about the discovery, Nathan and Sully decide to try and discover it before the Doughtys in the hopes that they can claim the treasure of the room for themselves. In the events that follow, enemies are made, friends are made for the first time and a secret about the Doughtys proves to be a danger to everyone.

The execution of this story is pulled to such an amazing capacity as to feel exactly like the video games. It even goes so far as to open with a quote, this time by Richard Evelyn Byrd, and stick Nathan right in the middle of the action. Having most of the story be told in flashback as a result only contributes to the feeling, with some scenes making me wonder if they could be turned into interactive game levels. In this regard, I feel that writer Joshua Williamson really knew what he was doing. The dialogue in fact was crafted well enough that I could hear every character's voice in my head and believe it, though I did have to try and invent voices for the newcomers.

Speaking of which, the characterization is absolutely flawless. Among many things, this comic fills us in on how Nathan Drake and Chloe Frazer, first seen in Uncharted 2, met each other for the first time. Their banter and building trust for one another is done such that it seemed to fit right in with how they would behave. Sully also fills his role well as Drake's partner and mentor, as well as acting just as he would under normal circumstances (or at least what constitutes as normal for them). The new characters Michael and Rose Doughty are also very interesting. Their overall motivation regarding Nathan Drake is actually pretty justified yet at the same time justifiably crazy. What's more interesting is that while the brother and sister duo both want to find the Amber Room, their actual reasons differ in that while they both want something of monetary value, one is lazy and the other is adventurous. In the end they are both memorable characters and great additions to the world of Uncharted.

The art of this comic is also amazing. Sergio Sandoval's pencil work and Pol Gas' inking with the colors of Ikari Studio bring out the look of Uncharted and adapt it well to fit a new medium, expertly converting the 3D models to a gorgeous 2D style. I have no  issues with anatomy or character designs since they match the models they are based on and the Doughtys are able to stand out from everyone else in a way that is visually appealing. I also liked the expressions given to each character, which also with the dialogue allowed me to believe that the actions of the characters are what they would do in a given situation. The covers for each issue are impressive as well. While the cover artist changes at least once, the action depicted is accurate to the events of the issue while also functioning very well on its own as a piece of art.

An example of the interior art.
My praise extends to the action sequences, the bread and butter of the franchise. There are, appropriately, a few set piece moments that are stunning and impressive to look at. The amount of space they take up on a page is very appropriate, since it retains the feeling of size that one might see in any of the games. They are also a good way of creating tension by thrusting Drake into a very harrowing situation and allowing us to wonder just how he'll live through the next one. Some of the fight scenes are also very well choreographed and have a unique panel layout, including one fight between Nathan and Chloe involving a two-page spread made of panels.

After reading this a second time, I believe this story to be a possible prequel to Uncharted: Drake's Fortune since Elena Fisher isn't mentioned. This is also Chloe's first canonical appearance and she is shown in Uncharted 2 to be an old flame of Drake's, so this position in the timeline seems to make sense.

DC's Uncharted comic is a welcome addition to the franchise. It's story and characters are well written, the art is fantastic and the overall vibes that I would normally get from the games are still present within the pages. What makes it even better is that the story is still very good even without association with the franchise, though it would make a little more sense to those with experience. Any fan should pick this series up, as well as comic readers that want a well executed action story. The series is now available as a Trade Paperback, so there's no excuse not to pick it up, though if you're like me and have the individual issues, you can also pinpoint exactly what month DC changed their logo to what we see now (and my opinion of that logo is another story for another time).

No comments:

Post a Comment