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.With the news of the Gamecock buyout by Southpeak Interactive, the fate of the notorious independent publisher hangs on the success of the games that they currently have in the pipe. One of which, the fantasy FPS Legendary, had its four-issue tie-in comic collected in trade paperback form. Veteran scribe Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Many Many Others) and penciler Martin Montiel (The Darkness) team up to, based on information available prior to the game’s early November release, adapt part of the game’s story into a fast-paced action adventure. Spoilers follow.
The comic, and game, stars master thief Charles Deckard, who is hired to steal an item that’s locked in a box in the basement of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. What he is not told is that the box is Pandora’s and, in this imagining, what is released from it are all the monsters of legend from every corner of the world. Werewolves, griffiths, Aztec winged serpents, Teutonic firedrakes, Japanese smoke demons and many others immediately start tearing the modern world apart as conventional means of combat are nearly ineffective against these ‘new’ supernatural forces. However, just as in the classical interpretation, hope is not lost, as the box imbues Deckard with the ‘Signet,’ a mark on his left hand that grants him the ability to manipulate the energy that powers these creatures and, if the legend holds, save the world by sealing them back inside Pandora’s Box.
Waid does a good job keeping the story moving through what is ultimately a conventional FPS plot, using pop-culture humor to take the edge off moments that clearly are designed for players to experience for themselves, rather then watching someone else do it on the page. Such as Deckard referencing old war movies while defending a helpless NPC from attack or pretending to be John McClane from Die Hard while battling a Kraken with a RPG while standing on the roof of the Parliament Building in London. However, while the power of the Signet gives him justification toward having an edge in the battle with the supernatural, the thief aspect of Deckard is soon glossed over, replaced by a battle-hardened expert in hand-to-hand combat and modern weaponry, as if Krav Maga and demolitions are taught alongside of lock picking and computer hacking.
Montiel’s art more than does its job of displaying all of the game’s mythological creatures as dangerous menaces and the emotions of the lead character, whose face quickly and clearly shifts from over-confidence to overwhelmed several times in the course of the story. His opening panel shot of a dragon is impressive, and the use of perspective gives the “Skyscraper Golem” smashing his way though Manhattan a real sense of scale. Although there are some inconsistencies with the story, all but one is clearly the work of the source material, for instance the appearance of skittering Japanese blood spiders (which any experienced gamer would immediately see as Legendary’s version of the Headcrab class of ‘annoyingly-difficult-to-shoot-tiny-monsters’) or the headgear of the bad guy’s private army. While having Cyclopean night-vision goggles is a thematically appropriate choice for the game’s art direction, you would think depth perception is a quality you’d want in mercenaries.
Overall, the Legendary TPB should be a definite pick up for the game’s fans (after they have played the game, as again, they share the same plot), as well as for any Mark Waid completists and any comic fan interested in the creatures of myth, especially since the collected edition comes with a backup feature including not only game hints, but also the ‘true’ legends behind the creatures used in the comic and their game universe counterparts.