It's a GameSpot-Comic Vine team-up as we get gamers and comic fans to assess titles based on Mass Effect, Gears of War, God of War, Halo, and the NES-era Nintendo lineup.
Gears of War
Wildstorm, hardcover, $19.99
Joshua Ortega and Liam Sharp
Marcus Fenix has all the best dialogue.
GameSpot's take: For better or worse, the Gears of War comic is true to the game. It's loud, violent, grim, and superficially reflective to the point of being satirical. In fact, this story's roots as the first six-issue story arc of an ongoing series pushes the tale further into the realm of parody than you'd think.
Because comics can't assume that every reader has read every issue from day one, they typically include numerous throwaway lines to help cue new readers into the various personalities, back story, abilities, and limitations of the characters. For Gears of War, that means first and foremost establishing what Marcus Fenix is. Instead of simply showing us that Fenix is the ultimate badass, Ortega tells us about it at regular intervals, whether by having new recruit Jace Stratton fawn over the sci-fi answer to Audie Murphy or having a group of bruisers in a bar apologetically back off once they realize they're dealing with THE Marcus Fenix. Oh, and Dom's wife will be brought up whenever possible.
Just as writer Joshua Ortega mimicked the ham-fisted exposition of the games, so too did he accurately adapt the story's tone. The Gears of War story--appropriately dubbed "Hollow"--is about a bunch of soldiers who brutally kill the Locust hordes, which span the rainbow of different types featured in the game. The soldiers are pretty generic, and fit neatly into various states of "grizzled," substituting a defining attribute for a personality. That attribute can be "old," "pro athlete," "jerk," "husband," "rookie," and in one case, "Marcus Fenix."
At various points along the way, these soldiers will cease being inhuman killing machines just long enough to reflect with stoicism about the horrors of war. They'll also bring a child along with them into an enemy enclave for poorly thought out reasons, because they are heroes, and child endangerment is incredibly heroic.
As for the visuals, Liam Sharp's art doesn't attempt to mimic the look of the Unreal Engine 3-powered game, and the book is probably better for it. Strange and obvious as it is to point out, this looks like a comic book. Unlike Halo: Uprising or God of War, which attempted to offer a very distinct visual style that would be the first thing people notice about the book, Gears of War takes a more utilitarian approach to the art. While they may often resort to the same palette of browns and grays as the game, Sharp's panels are generally clear and distinct, and his attention to detail on game elements like the Gears' uniforms and the Locust hordes comes through well.
True to the games, the Locust in the comics don't like humans.
Comic Vine's take: Gears of War is a game I haven't played. Seeing Liam Sharp handling the art was a great incentive to read this series. With the gritty nature of the story and the big battles that occur, he was a great choice for the book.
The story presented here doesn't completely explain everything right away. We get the idea that there's a big war going on against evil forces (the Locust Horde). It's a violent war and it's refreshing to read a comic that didn't have to hold back or water down the violence. As much as I enjoyed the art, it was sometimes hindered by the color.
As the story progressed, I never really found myself completely attached to the characters. If anyone was killed or injured, I wouldn't really care too much. You do start to wonder if they're going to survive it all but with so many soldiers, it didn't really matter who made it and who was a casualty. We also had some stereotypical characters. There was a lot of brooding going on. Sure it was a bad situation but basically it felt like it all boiled down to a bunch of soldiers with big guns fighting off an alien race.
This was the only selection here that I didn't read straight through. I would read an issue or two and then jump to another book. Looking back, if I didn't return to finish the first arc, it wouldn't have mattered too much. This isn't to say it was a bad read. There just wasn't a lot that made me want to go back. Towards the end, I did start wanting to know who would survive.
There is more to the Gears of War story, as the series made it to issue #23. I am a little interested to see what happens next. With the one lingering plot line that was left unanswered, it might be enough to make me return to this comic universe.