Mass Effect Library Edition Volume 1 (Dark Horse) Review
Mass Effect is our favorite space opera video game series, but can it make a lasting impression in a comic book industry saturated by tie-ins? Dark Horse may have something to say about that!
First of all, I want to let you know that I spill tears of joy every time I think about how awesome Mass Effect is (most of it, anyways). One of the things I love most about the Mass Effect games is the limitless potential for an expanded universe. Taking many pages from the books of space fantasy classics such as Star Wars and Star Trek, this series was developed in such a way that the stories could go on and on forever. To say that Mass Effect 3 was an ending isn’t saying much at all since there’s still so much space to tell great stories in the ME universe. Sure, ME3 was the end of the line for Commander Shepard (a guy who deserved a much better ending, no doubt about it), but there are still countless species and star systems to be explored. We can’t get enough of this universe.So when I dug into the first volume of the Mass Effect Library Edition from Dark Horse Comics, which collects all four miniseries to date, I was genuinely excited for what was to come. In what direction would Dark Horse take this beloved universe? What new adventures lay ahead? Let me make this clear: this is, by all definitions, a comic book tie-in. These comics were created to support the stories in the ME games. We get backstories, prequels, and parallel storylines that help flesh out things that the games just couldn’t cover.For the most part, the stories in this volume are good, especially in the second miniseries, “Evolution,” which introduces us to a young Jack Harper, the man that will one day become the Illusive Man, arguably the series’ main antagonist. This story is full of monoliths and homages to the hard science fiction stories of Arthur C. Clarke. It expands on one of the best characters in the series and finally helps us understand why he turned out the way he did by the end of Mass Effect 3. Like always, you’ll root for him even though you know that ultimately he’s up to no good. You even get to meet the real-life EVA…The third miniseries, “Invasion,” is also sick nasty as we get another taste of the “Queen of Omega” (no dirty jokes please), Aria T’Loak, a ruthless Asari gangster that rules over Omega Station, a space station built out of a friggin’ asteroid! If you remember, Omega Station served as one of the main settings of the darker ME2, the home of the criminal underworld of the galaxy. In “Invasion,” Omega is invaded by Cerberus, the pro-humanity terrorist group led by the Illusive Man, and its savage Reaper experiments. Aria must rally her army of degenerates to defeat Cerberus and take back her territory. This story serves as prequel to the Mass Effect 3: Omega DLC and is a must-read for fans that love the more action-packed parts of the series. “Redemption” was released right before Mass Effect 2 and serves as its prequel. The first miniseries is a much more contained story, a spy thriller full of double agents, gadgets, and a very coveted package: the body of the deceased Commander Shepard. Cerberus, the Collectors, the Shadow Broker, and Liara T’Soni all want the corpse of the galaxy’s ultimate soldier. Liara enlists the help of the enigmatic Drell (aren’t they all?), Feron, an information trafficker under the employ of the mysterious Shadow Broker. Sprinkle in the Illusive Man’s firepower and intelligence and you have yourself the ultimate showdown. “Redemption” explains how Shepard came to be in the care of Cerberus and why Liara must save Feron in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, one of the best DLCs in the series to date.We now reach one of my only negative moments in the collection: “Homeworlds,” the fourth and latest miniseries. It’s made up of four standalone issues that focus on some of the series’ characters before they left their homeworlds. The first issue tells the story of how James Vega, that random addition to ME3, came to join the Marines. From the start, James Vega was a peculiar choice to open up “Homeworlds” since he was one of the least interesting characters in the third game. This origin story continues that tradition. We also get Garrus Vakarian, our favorite Turian (besides Saren, but don’t tell anyone), learning how to shoot a gun, the gearhead Tali on her much-coveted pilgrimage to Ilium, and Liara’s search for the Prothean Archives. These stories are a lot less interesting than their predecessors although they seem very promising at first glance. Maybe it’s because they don’t really add to our understanding of the characters at all as origin stories should. We know James has a violent past, that Garrus struggles between war and peace, that Tali wants to make her forefathers proud, and that Liara’s thirst for information is often her downfall. I could live without these stories since the characters are so fleshed-out in-game. Maybe my reaction is due to the fact that the first three miniseries are so great…Not much to say about the art except that it’s beautiful and exactly what I want space in the Mass Effect universe to look like. A mix of digital and real-life ink creates a lot of different textures that give the series its unique sense of modernity albeit the rust of time and space. Dark Horse really wanted to do something special here as they hired some of the best talent in their bullpen to work on these miniseries including several Star Wars comics veterans.A cool thing about these comics is that they’re designed for people that don’t normally read comics: gamers who want to know more about their favorite video game series. There are little comments under almost every page, provided by the writers and artists of the comics. These comments shed light on the entire creative process of a comic book from writing to penciling to inking. We’re talking a collection that fully appreciates Mass Effect and the idea of comic books in general. You can’t ask for more.
Writers: Mac Walters, Patrick Weekes, John Dombrow, Sylvia FeketekutyScript: John Jackson Miller and Jeremy BarlowArt: Omar Francia, Eduardo Francisco de Jesus, Chris Staggs, Marc Deering, Garry Brown, Jean DiazColors: Michael AtiyehLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!