Hey there, and welcome to another edition of our games column, Pixels and Panels. As you’ve no doubt seen by our coverage here, the worlds of video games and comic books are more closely intertwined than ever before. This column will explore comic book video games and explore games that make the leap the other direction and become comic books. We’ll track the trends, give you some previews and reviews, and explore every side of the transition from Pixels to Panels and back again.
Mirror’s Edge #1
Wildstorm is becoming the place to go if you want a comic based on a video game. This week they released their latest video game licensed book, this one based on the entirely new IP from EA Games, Mirror’s Edge. The game itself hasn’t come out yet (though the demo hits PSN and XBLA this week), but has already garnered much attention. It’s a free-running first person game. There are guns, but according to the developers you don’t need to and won’t want to use them. The lead character is an Asian female. The scenery is a stark white, with primary colors dotting the landscapes to indicate your possible paths. Basically, there is very little about this game that’s ever been seen before, and EA is banking on that sense of newness driving people to the purchase. The comic is meant as a prequel to the game, giving readers a sense of just who the parkour-ing badass Faith is before trying her shoes on for size.
The art, first, has to match the style established by the game. Thus far, with few people having played it, that primaries-on-white look is the first thing that comes to mind. Matthew Dow Smith and Jim Charalampidis do a good job capturing the feel of the game, but lack some detail that would take the art from good to great. The palette stays the same as the game for the comic, and the outdoor scenes are thus incredibly expansive. An acrobatic pose in nearly every running panel is used to convey the parkour free-running look, but doesn’t quite grab it. It seems that this hundred year old technique that’s recently gained traction is difficult to capture in still shots. There’s definitely a sense of motion, just not the “Holy Crap!” you might expect when watching an experienced traceus. Faith has a very clean, distinctive, and unique look. Unfortunately, the male supporting cast isn’t so lucky. Every male face looks the same, with one being altered only by race. A picture takes center stage late in the book, and without the exposition, I would’ve sworn it was one of the men who had appeared earlier. That was unfortunately distracting enough to pull me out of the book for a moment, but not enough to destroy enjoyment of the book.
The story itself is really quite interesting. This is a story set in an apparently near future, where seclusion becomes the standard, and security is so high that individuals don’t seem to have any real freedom anymore. Pratchett wrote the story for the game as well, so she obviously knows these characters in and out. Faith is impulsive, but definitely a product of her surroundings. Her natural sense of elusiveness seems to lend itself perfectly to the job of Runner, the outlaw delivery folks who traverse rooftops in the name of free exchange of information. We don’t get into how or why the world got this way just yet, but even with this limited introduction to Faith, she’s an interesting character. A sufficiently intriguing cliffhanger wraps the story, and makes me wonder not just where this part of the story is going, but how it will lead into the game. I wonder how far we’ll get to see Faith progress here.
“Meeting” a game character prior to the game is a unique opportunity that’s becoming more common. With titles like this that aren’t just tie-ins but manage to be compelling reads on their own, I hope to see this trend continue.