Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Silent Hill Downpour: Anne's Story

Note: This review contains spoilers for Silent Hill: Downpour.

Back in 2012, Silent Hill: Downpour (Downpour) released to very mixed reception and, unfortunately, ended up as the final main title in the Silent Hill franchise. Within the divisive story, Murphy Pendleton would occasionally cross paths with Anne Marie Cunningham, a corrections officer who spends most of the game wanting him dead for turning her father into a vegetable, or so she believes. Her infrequent appearances also hint at her experiencing her own personal nightmare while navigating the town, leaving gaps that writers Tom Waltz, Tom Hulett and Devin Shatsky had planned on filling through a DLC campaign. Although Konami had scrapped this planned content, Tom Waltz got permission to adapt the planned story into a four-issue IDW comic book in 2014 as Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story (Anne’s Story), with art by Tristan "T-Rex" Jones. This comic would then receive a trade paperback in 2015.

Of the Silent Hill material I bought, this proved among the least expensive, as I found a copy of the trade on eBay in early 2022 for about $18. I didn’t have much interest in the comic at first, since I didn’t feel like I needed to read any supplementary material, but when I learned of its canon status and original intention, I decided I should properly complete my Downpour experience. Although our previous comic book reviews turned out pretty awful (displaying an embarrassing lack of understanding of the medium), I feel that with time (and experience from creating our own book), I’m now much better equipped at writing about Anne’s Story. Without further ado, let’s look into whether or not Anne’s Story does a good job at supplementing Murphy Pendleton’s story in Downpour.

After a bus crash during a prison transfer, corrections officer Anne Marie Cunningham catches up with Murphy Pendleton in the surrounding woods. However, Anne loses her footing and, despite Murphy’s attempt to help her, she falls off a cliff. When she lands unharmed, Anne finds an entrance to the Devil’s Pit and walks into a nightmare of her own making.

While the blurbs in the trade subtly suggest playing Downpour first, there was a clear attempt at making Anne’s Story more accessible to newcomers. The events that readers see from Anne’s perspective all occur between her encounters with Murphy in the game, which are also faithfully recreated, so readers starting with Anne’s Story can still at least get an idea of what happened during Downpour.

Anne's Story provides proper context for new readers.

Within each of the four issues, we learn a bit more about Anne’s backstory and the events leading up to the fateful prison transfer. We see how her upbringing influenced her career choice, how the incident with her father affected her marriage and, most importantly, the main difference between her morals and her father’s. The sexual favors she traded with Warden Trent for a shot at Murphy act as an extension of this moral difference, since she’s willing to do anything for the sake of revenge, though this plot thread is handled tastefully. Learning this backstory gives Anne more depth and feeds into the symbolism of her monster encounters, as well as reinforce the notion that she continued chasing after Murphy so she wouldn’t feel like she had made deep personal sacrifices in vain.

Anne’s journey also revisits some familiar characters and situations. For instance, her first encounter with a monster mirrors Murphy’s, including mistaking the monster for an innocent civilian while someone they know beats it. Anne also has a run-in with JP Sater, where she makes her opinion of him very clear, and the mysterious postmaster Howard Blackwood, who subtly helps her find where she needs to go. Her past interactions with corrections officer George Sewell also make it clear that he had stirred the pot for both Anne and Murphy for his own twisted sense of entertainment.

The nature of Anne’s Story as planned DLC also gives it the opportunity to establish certain events as canon and address some loose ends, including the fate of DJ Ricks at the radio station. Anne’s initial interaction with Murphy after the crash suggests that the “Save Her” option given to the player was the canon choice. When the story reaches its conclusion, the epilogue suggests Ending B as Downpour’s canon ending, which honestly fits Anne’s character arc and the facts otherwise established throughout the book. As a nice touch, all of the dialogue featured in canon scenes also matches 1:1 with the scenes as presented in Downpour, which establishes a stronger connection with Anne’s Story.

Alongside the well-written story, Tristan "T-Rex" Jones’ artwork perfectly captures the style and tone of Downpour while adding his own personal touch. Pages are clear and easy to follow, with some interesting layouts that help keep the experience fresh while also preserving the nightmarish dreamlike quality of Silent Hill. The artwork also does a great job of maintaining the feeling that readers are viewing the world through Anne’s perspective, as she views certain things differently than Murphy or the player in Downpour. Then there are the monsters, with a selection that suits Anne’s journey. A combination of pre-existing monsters and new ones feel carefully selected and demonstrate a real understanding of the symbolism inherent within the Silent Hill series, each representing one of Anne’s personal demons in some way.

Anne's Story has some interesting page layouts.

Although Anne’s Story is well-constructed, there are a couple issues. One, likely brought on by the limitations of adapting would could easily have been an hours-long campaign as a four-issue comic, is that the pacing can feel a bit fast at times. While this can depend on the reader, I personally saw this with the encounter with JP Sater and at least a couple of the monsters Anne fights. While the artwork is generally easy to follow, there are a couple transitions that feel rather abrupt and some panels are a little too dark to fully comprehend.

Whether or not you’ve played Downpour, Anne’s Story is a solid recommendation. For those who have played the main game, the comic helps fill in the gaps and provides a good sense of closure. Those who haven’t can still get a taste of Silent Hill with Anne’s Story, as it does an admiral job of making itself accessible by providing the necessary context to follow along. While not perfect, it’s still nice that this story could see the light of day at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment