Friday, June 11, 2010

Mass Effect Redemption Review

It does not always give me a good feeling when I see a video game franchise grow and migrate to other mediums. Too many film adaptations, for instance, had turned out to be crappy on the big screen, ruining an otherwise great game universe. Fortunately, not everything is bad, and there are quite a few good adaptations out there. Besides books, I also enjoy video game comics quite a bit. Though, similarly to movies, they tend to fluctuate greatly, there are some really good ones—such as Dead Space, a true masterpiece from award winning artist Ben Templesmith. Recently, this small group of good video game comics grew with a new arrival: Mass Effect Redemption.

Aside from being among the very best of role playing games, the Mass Effect franchise also has a certain appeal that leaves very few sci-fi enthusiasts unaffected. As for me, over the years, Mass Effect has become one of my favorite sci-fi universes, which makes it hard for me to talk objectively about Redemption. But, I will try.

Although the last issue of this four-part series came out a couple of months ago, I decided to wait with my review for the simple reason that I do not like comics in their traditional, periodical form. I cannot stand the endless pages of advertisements, the higher cost of collecting a series, and the vulnerability of the comics. If possible, I always go for the compilation, usually coming out a few months after a series is finished. These books-bound comics are not only more esthetically pleasing, but usually advertisement-free, more durable, and often have extra content, making the wait well worth it.

Mass Effect Redemption came out on June 9th and those of us who were willing to wait for it won’t be disappointed. This is a gorgeous publication with vibrant colors and sharp, good quality printing. I have only two concerns. First of all, the pages are very susceptible to fingerprints. Other publishers often use a special paper that makes dark paged less vulnerable to this esthetic defect. Unfortunately, Mass Effect Redemption is not among them; so, if you have oily skin be careful! My other concern is the paper cover. I wish Dark Horse had published the book with hard cover, even if it would have made it more expensive. Hard covers not only protect comic books from damage much better but also give a certain “collector’s” quality to them. Nevertheless, aside from these minor issues, Mass Effect Redemption is a nice, first-rate publication.

Update: Since I wrote this review, it has been pointed out to me that Mass Effect: Redemption does indeed have a limited, hardcover edition (which of course I managed to acquire). Having said that, I withdraw my previous objection about the binding. Nevertheless, I would have still liked to see all versions of the book to come out with the better quality cover. Maybe the next one...

The content of the book is similarly good. I do not want to spoil the story; so, I just say Mac Walters—who, by the way, also worked on the video game—delivers a decent story involving around Liara T’Soni, the Asari scientist introduced in the first game. The comic certainly does not possess the same sophisticated plot told in the video games, but it easily exceeds that of other, more action packed, video game comics. To me, Mass Effect Redemption remained engaging even during my second reading, which rarely happens! Dark Horse also rewarded those who waited for the compilation with a sketchbook section at the end, introducing the making of the series.

What makes this comic really memorable is the presentation. Omar Francia, the man behind Redemption’s visuals, is a fine artist. Though he is far from the artistic excellence of, let’s say, Ben Templesmith, he portrays the Mass Effect universe very nicely. Every strip is well detailed and the characters easily recognizable. All this completed with the brilliant use of colors undoubtedly make Mass Effect Redemption a successful attempt to bring this rich universe to the comic world—much better than some other franchises have to bear with!

Overall, even though it has some minor issues, Mass Effect Redemption is still one of the best video game comic since Dead Space. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in Mass Effect, sci-fi, or video game comics.

9 / 10

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