Before this read, I hadn’t even heard of DEAD SPACE. I didn’t even know what it was. Now, don’t hate me haters – those who follow my reviews know that I’m no gamer. I’ve never seriously played anything on the computer other than FreeCell, but there’s no one to kill nor aliens to shoot at (not that I’ve seen, anyway) in the version that comes standard with most PCs. I had to do some minor research, and then, lo and behold, I saw a TV commercial for DEAD SPACE 3 – the newest incarnation of this popular space-based gaming franchise – and I was pointed in the right direction. Granted, I didn’t learn everything I needed from a commercial, but it was a welcome start.
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
On some far off planet, employees are hard-at-work exploring the world for whatever resources they can plunder when a team stumbles across an alien ‘Marker,’ one linked to the religion-du-jour back on Earth. Believing they’ve uncovered important links to mankind, the believers are mysteriously drawn to it time and time again, and, as their ranks grow, the planetary security force realizes they must do something and fast or they’ll have a mutiny on their hands. A ship is dispatched from Earth to retrieve the artifact and bring it home for study, but, before they can arrive, several citizens begin suffering all measure of maladies – hallucinations, paranoia, and even psychosis. Even worse comes the realization that their planetary installation has slowly been invaded by a creeping fungus-like growth that holds the darkest of secrets for what they’ve truly uncovered.
DEAD SPACE is a delight. This graphic novel (apparently) explores the characters and circumstances tied in with the game of the same name, giving it a needed history that may (or may not) enhance one’s competency in the game. (I couldn’t say, as that’s not the thrust of my review.) It’s a grim tale – a space tragedy not all that unlike the one staked out in every installment of the stellar ALIENS franchise – and it deserves equal footing alongside other tales of that nature. Something mysterious is at work, making the choice of having the lead character a police sergeant – named Abraham Neumann – a stroke of genius. As he slowly peels back the layers, readers are taken with him along the way toward experiencing these events and uncovering what they might mean for the rest of us.
The story is told in six installments (or chapters) with the tensions and anxiety set in motion by a cryptic video from Neumann himself – he warns others than the installation is doomed. Then – in flashbacks – we learn the rest of the story as the colonists begin their descent into a madness only some great video game designers could hatch. It’s a highly visual story – told with some terrific artwork by Ben Templesmith – and, yes, I encourage you to run out and pick yourself up a copy today.
DEAD SPACE is published by Titan Books. The story is written Antony Johnston; artwork is provided by Ben Templesmith. This trade paperback bears the cover price of $17.99, and that’s a bargain for all of the enjoyment I got out of it.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. I absolutely love science fiction – yes, even some bad sci-fi, too – so maybe mine is not the most impartial voice on this matter, but so very much of this DEAD SPACE graphic novel was terrific. It had the look and feel of a major theatrical production, plus having the added plus of reading like a quality novel without all of the unnecessary exposition. No, it won’t inspire me to go out and play the game (like I said, I’m no gamer), but it’ll definitely have me picking up any other supporting graphic novels from this line in the future. It’s a grand vision – part scary, part gory – and it’s a lot of fun in much the same way ALIEN and ALIENS was. Don’t worry: in space, no one can hear you scream.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Titan Books provided me with a reader’s copy of DEAD SPACE for the expressed purpose of completing this review.