Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Adventures of Sly Cooper (Comic)

As seen with other comic reviews on this blog, comics can be used as a way to add more depth to a video game series, while also providing a convenient way to promote the next game in a series by telling a story that takes place between games, which is the approach of many of the comics reviewed here. Some however, like The Darkness II: Confession, while acting as a transition point, are only available through a promotion like Free Comic Book Day or otherwise as a free give-away, like a hand-out at a convention (the aforementioned The Darkness comic was actually given away through both of these means). The comic I will be talking about here was released in a similar fashion, as a promotional item through the now-defunct GamePro magazine. Tying into the events of the Sly Cooper games, The Adventures of Sly Cooper is a 2-issue miniseries, with each issue published at different points, the first as a transition between Sly 1 and 2 and the second issue taking place between Sly 2 and 3. Due to their limited availability, these comics can go for high prices online, ranging in several 10's of dollars (you can probably find The Darkness II: Confession much easier and for a much lower price). With these comics being about as the games they were made to promote, the question here is not just whether they are good, but also whether they are still good after all this time.

The first issue of The Adventures of Sly Cooper tells one story, but is divided into 3 sections: "The Heart of a Thief", which revolves around Inspector Carmelita Fox trying to protect the statue "Venus de Whalo" as Sly Cooper and co. attempt to steal it; "The Cookie Connection", a flashback sequence to the Cooper Gang's very first heist (stealing cookies) back when they were in an orphanage; and "A Chase Down Memory Lane", where Sly and Carmelita partake in a flashback to when they first met each other. The last two parts are related to the first in that, after the gang steals the sculpture ("The Heart of a Thief"), Sly must stall for time until another boat arrives (they were a few minutes behind schedule, causing them to miss a boat to use in their getaway). On the way over to Carmelita, Sly reminisces back to his youth at the orphanage ("The Cookie Connection"), and once he reaches her, Sly stalls by having both him and Carmelita reminisce about their first meeting as they tell their own side of the story ("A Chase Down Memory Lane").

The framing device of a heist serves as a good way to tell each of the three stories presented so as to not make the book an anthology of three short stories, and the way is which this is presented helps add more depth to the Sly Cooper mythos without any form of non sequitur. The narrative also provides more backstory on the character of Dimitri, an important character in the then-upcoming Sly 2, in addition to adding depth to the relationship between Sly Cooper and Carmelita Fox.

The cover of the second issue.

The second issue of the comic follows from the aftermath of Sly 2, expanding on the first few minutes of the then-unreleased Sly 3 as Sly learns more about his family history and tries to get the gang back together. This story is also divided into chunks, this time 4, although only two of them have proper titles: The first section sees Sly breaking into prison in order to talk to a walrus named Big Jim McSweeney, his dad's old thieving partner; the second, "...And Then There Were Two!" sees Sly and Murray breaking into a hospital to get their injured pal Bentley out so they could pull a heist better; the third, "Good Looking from afar, but Far from Good Looking Up Close!" has Carmelita investigating a failed heist by Sly and Murray while a co-worker named Winthorp tries to admit his crush on her; finally, the Epilogue details the events of the following day, leading into the events of the first few minutes of Sly 3 as Carmelita prepares to take down Sly Cooper and drama occurs within the Cooper Gang.

This comic uses a similar sort of framing device to the first to connect the four stories together, which again works in its favor. It gives the comic a unique feel to it while also expanding on events brought up at the beginning of Sly 3. The execution provides a good narrative flow that makes it feel like a Sly Cooper story, telling a story divided into chapters like the game the comic is promoting.

The comic does not really make clear who the creative teams are for each issue, but whoever wrote these comics did a good job with the setting and characters. The dialogue feels natural for each character and I could imagine each characters' voices as I was reading, which, as I have said in other comic reviews, is a really good sign (except for Carmelita, whose voice changes as often as Dante's, so I had to try to settle for one as I was reading). The artwork is also very exceptional, perfectly matching the art style of the games and feeling very lively in places. The art feels very fluid and, like the games themselves, keeps a similar atmosphere to the series at those points and makes everything stand out like in the cut scenes (in fact, I've read that some of the comic panels actually were used for the cut scenes, which I wouldn't be surprised about since some images in the second issue look like they were ripped straight from the third game). One thing I noticed, however, is a coloring error that pops up a few times in the first issue where Sly's gloves are colored entirely yellow, as opposed to blue gloves with a yellow trim. Aside from that, while I can't pinpoint exact names, I thought the creative team (teams?) did a very excellent job (I wouldn't be surprised if it was Sucker Punch employees who worked on it).

Overall, The Adventures of Sly Cooper is the perfect advertisement for a Sly Cooper game. With some great writing and artwork, the comic not only provides more development for fans of the series, it's also a good way to entice newcomers to check it out. The comic might be hard to find now, but it's still worth taking a look. On a related note, Sanzaru Games did something similar to this comic to promote Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, which comes out next week, in the form of an animated short, first scattered across the 'net in three pieces and then brought together as one. The animation and voice acting (despite only having one voice) are truly amazing and I would highly recommend watching it.

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