I’ve made no bones about the fact that, when I began reading these DEAD SPACE graphic novels, I knew absolutely nothing about the DEAD SPACE universe. To a certain extent, that concerned me only so far as I’m a lover of all things sci-fi. I’ve just never been a gamer, per se. I’ve kinda/sorta followed the industry a bit, but I’ve no problem saying that I’ve only marginal interest in those ‘things’ called electronic games. Still, I’m a good story junkie, and I can appreciate a good tale as much as the next person, so I tore into these with some delight. The first read was a delight; the second read was solid though a bit to be desired stylistically; and this last one – DEAD SPACE: LIBERATION – might possibly spell my last adventure in the DEAD SPACE franchise only because – unlike the others – it smacks entirely of a marketing tie-in and less as a fully-fledged adventure.
Now, that’s not a complaint so much as it is a statement of fact. If you’re inclined, read on, and I’ll be happy to explain.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary 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 …)
John Carver is an explorer who has the ugly job of doing what others don’t want to do: he takes out the trash, essentially relegated to soldier/sentry duty on a distant world. But religious fanatics attack an alien Marker, putting his wife and child in serious jeopardy, and he rushes headfirst into this epic race-against-time that’ll quite possibly set the stage for the fate of the DEAD SPACE franchise.
Now, I only ask you to keep in mind that, as I’ve said, I’m relatively inexperienced in all things DEAD SPACE (the game), and, rather, it’s my skills as a reader and reviewer of fiction and graphic novels that gets items like the DEAD SPACE graphic novels sent to me. I’m an admitted sci-fi addict, so I do embrace the good with the bad when it comes to bringing myself up-to-speed in order to provide an impartial opinion of such works, and that’s exactly the approach I’ve taken here. With that qualifier out of the way, let me say that LIBERATION is a balls-to-the-wall actioner that’s told with some great gusto by writer Ian Edginton. He presents a dynamic situation of a man-in-crisis – he wants to save his family, but, if that ain’t possible, he’s definitely going to save the world if – and that’s a big IF – he can make it happen.
Sadly, that story isn’t brought to fullest potential here as the story comes to a close with no finale. Instead, the audience is given a set-up for what I’m lead to believe is the game’s central character: the introduction of Isaac Clarke. Instead of giving Carver the benefit of a conclusion, LIBERATION is essentially nothing more than set-up for somebody else’s story, and, as much as it pains me to say it, that was a disappointment for me – an independent R-E-A-D-E-R caught up in the DEAD SPACE world.
As a consequence, it’s hard to give this thing a ringing endorsement. Yes, Edginton presents an exceptional set-up – it’s exactly the kind of adventurous story sci-fi fans want to experience. Award-winning artist Christopher Shy does some great work here as well; granted, it ain’t all that easy on the eyes at times, but I had no great problem following the narrative set out by Edginton. It’s a stylistic take – draped in an awful lot of flashes and dark colors – that others might find fault with, but, if you’ve read the previous graphic novels, it’s entirely acceptable within the established artistic continuity. Sadly, though, Carver’s story is just incomplete, and I can only conclude that’s because now you’re supposed to go out and play the game.
Say what you may, Dead Spacer, but the other graphic novels didn’t wind down that way. They told stories that were independent yarns within this universe, allowing anyone – a gamer or not – a glimpse into this dynamic world by way of fully realized characters and stories. In fact, the first DEAD SPACE graphic novel easily gets a re-read or two in my lifetime because it has the complexity of a great sci-fi novel … and it doesn’t require any further investment in order to bring it all to closure for this reader. LIBERATION? Not so much. LIBERATION is more about enslavement to the franchise – it’s a marketing tie-in built entirely around the ongoing commercial appeal – and that was more than a bit frustrating to this R-E-A-D-E-R. Entertaining? Yes. Complete? No way. Make any new fans? Doubtful.
DEAD SPACE: LIBERATION is published by Titan Books. For those of you not in the know, I’ve tried to be clear that this is a publishing tie-in to an established game property, DEAD SPACE, which explores an alien infestation of spaceships and other worlds while hinting at connections to humanity’s evolution. The story is written by Ian Edginton with artwork provided by Christopher Shy. The book bears a cover price of $19.99 in hardback, not a bad price if this is your cup of tea.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. While I’m happy to admit that I’m certainly not as familiar with the DEAD SPACE franchise as would be a traditional gamer or fanboy, that doesn’t change the fact that I expect a story to (A) be intriguing, (B) be intelligent, and (C) make perfect sense. DEAD SPACE: LIBERATION tries very hard, but, in the end, methinks this may only make sense to a consumer of the game. As a solo property, it’s definitely intriguing though horribly incomplete. It comes to a crashing halt probably right where you need to go out and engage the game in order to know what comes next (if anything?), and I found that a bit disappointing compared to the last two DEAD SPACE graphic novels I read; those two allowed me – not a gamer – to glance into this world, understand it, and appreciate a story derived from it. LIBERATION is hardly ‘liberating.’ Rather, it’s probably directed at one specific audience – gamers – and that’s a let down.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Titan Books provided me with an advance reader copy of DEAD SPACE: LIBERATION for the expressed purposes of completing this review.