Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mirror's Edge (Comic) - A Broken Mirror

Since I've already taken a look at the Mirror's Edge video game a couple of weeks ago, I've finally gotten around to talking about the comic based on it published by Wildstorm, a former imprint of DC Comics. Since I didn't buy the individual issues when they were first published, I did end up getting the trade paperback, which I was able to read in one setting. I understand that DICE collaborated on the production, even using the same writer as the game, but for me it serves as a good example of the varying quality one can expect from video game tie-in comics.

Story-wise, the comic is supposed to serve as a prequel to the events of the game, exploring Faith's background and how she became a Runner. In theory, this is something that should be able to work, given that Rhianna Pratchett also wrote the game. It's a good opportunity to take the depth that wasn't in the game and potentially add some through the comic to explain more of the world the game is in. In practice, this doesn't really pan out all that well. To explain would require me to talk about it in stages, the first being how Faith becomes a Runner in the first place. It is consistent with the source material, utilizing the same backstory and showing us her training and getting accustomed to her new life while establishing how she interacts with others in her profession. On a lesser note, we also learn how and why Faith got her tattoos. This is the point where the comic sort of works, but it unfortunately is unable to carry the full weight of a six-issue miniseries.

The other stage would be revealing more about her family. Her sister Kate is at this point just starting out as a CPF officer, a cop for a city we still don't know the name of. The interactions they share are realistic in the context of the universe, but even though it supports the relationship they have in the game, this plays second fiddle to the real mystery surrounding their parents. What truly drives the comic is that someone is interested in Faith's dad for some reason, so she goes on a quest to find out where he is. She eventually does, confronting him about just what happened during and after the Libertas rebellion movement he lead. The answer is admittedly interesting, but it didn't really make me care about the character that much more. Talking about the mom for a moment, we find out that she was a great scientific mind and created the macguffin of the story, a highly advanced computer chip. What they end up doing when they discover the attention it attracts while in their possession makes sense, but it didn't turn out that exciting to watch (they just give it to the company that wants it).

The one thing that makes the comic nearly unbearable to read however is the artwork by Matthew Dow Smith. I have no experience with his other works and no clue how popular he is, but the way he tries to mimic the style of the game is simply awful and almost qualifies the comic as part of our survey of horror (but in a different way). It removes the flair from the action, important photos are rendered incomprehensible and there are no expressions on any of the characters; if you know what "dull surprise" is, then you already have a good idea of the art at work here (seriously, there's even a scene where Faith and Kate are thrown by an explosion and they still don't display any real emotion). In a startling contrast however, the covers for the comics are really good to look at, giving a sense of action or even scale in a way that the interior art simply couldn't. In an equally startling move, the trade paperback omits the cover of issue five and doesn't even have concept art for it, removing a proper transition between chapters four, five and six. Quality control at its finest.

Cover Art for Issue 6 (as seen in the trade)
In the end, I have mixed feelings toward the Mirror's Edge comic. Mostly it's underwhelming, with a halfway decent story marred by terrible artwork. Even then, the story doesn't have much depth to it and is only good for filling in the details of Faith's past, a path I would only tell big fans of the game to run along. If you're curious about picking up the trade however, just to see what Mirror's Edge is, then I would tell you not to let this be your first exposure to the series and find a different path to the end. In a time where video game comics have the potential to actually be good, it's sad that this simply can't deliver.

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