Graphic Novel Review: Dead Space Salvage

Dead Space: Salvage
Writer: Antony Johnson
Artist: Christopher Shy
Publisher: IDW
Release Date: 12/07/2010

Like a lot of our staff here at Diehard GameFAN, I’m a big fan of EA’s Dead Space series, and it’s the first franchise by Electronic Arts I can honestly say I’ve loved since Mutant League Football. However, unlike a lot of our staff, I’ve actually picked up all the spin-offs, like the novel, comics and movies, because they really help to complete the story big time, and they actually tend to be better than the games themselves, believe or not.

Dead Space: Salvage is the second comic book release for the DS franchise, but unlike the first, which was originally released in both single issues and motion comics form (Still free on PSN) and later collected into a hardcover trade, Dead Space: Salvage is a softcover graphic novel, meaning this is the only way you can pick it up. Before we begin a full look at the comic, here’s a timeline to help you place in what order everything in the Dead Space Mythology goes.

1. Dead Space: Martyr (Novel about Robert Altman)
2. Dead Space (Original limited series comics)
2.5 Dead Space: Extraction (Video Game. It actually starts part way through the comics and ends partway through the first movie, so I’ve thrown it here.)
2.6 Dead Space: Extraction (One-shot comic about Nicole, Isaac Clarke’s girlfriend Starts at the same point as the video game, but concludes earlier. )
3. Dead Space: Downfall (DVD/first animated movie)
4. Dead Space (First Video Game)
5. Dead Space: Salvage (What we’re reviewing here)
5.5 Dead Space: Aftermath (Based on the Salvage and what we know of this upcoming movie, it starts right towards the halfway point to the tail end of Salvage.)
6. Dead Space: Ignition (mini game for PSN/XBLA)
7. Dead Space 2 (Coming soon)

Now if you asked me to number all eight Dead Space releases that acre actually out from best to worst in terms of story/plot/fun I’d say:

1. Dead Space (Original comics)
2. Dead Space: Martyr
3. Dead Space: Extraction (Wii)
4. Dead Space: Extraction (Comic)
5. Dead Space (Game)
6. Dead Space: Salvage
7. Dead Space: Downfall
8. Dead Space: Ignition

I can’t rate Aftermath or DS2 since they’re not out yet. Also, it looks really bad that this particular graphic novel is coming in six out of eight, but remember, the first five are all fantastic.

Dead Space Salvage is once again written by Antony Johnson, who wrote the limited series and the Extraction one-shot (as well as the plots for all three video games released so far). Art duties no longer go to Ben Templesmith, which is unfortunate, as I loved his art and new guy Christopher Shy‘s style just doesn’t cut it for me. The art was ruddy and blurry, but what really bothered me was that character faces blurred together and often you couldn’t tell who was who if they weren’t speaking. Seriously, Malyech, Change, the Oracles and Schneider all look alike. The art reminds me a lot of someone trying to combine the styles of 30 Days of Night, some of the old Hellraiser comics from Marvel’s old Epic line and Dave McKean’s early Sandman covers. The art is decent, don’t get me wrong, but Shy has trouble distinguishing faces from each other and there is very little detail to outfits or backgrounds. It’s stylistic, but it tends to interfere with the storytelling and that’s my big gripe.

The story is a little lackluster compared to Johnston’s previous comics, but it’s still an interesting one. A squad of four illegal mining ships happen upon the remains of the USG Ishimura. The crews of the four ships squabble about whether they should sell the ship for scrap or ransom it to the CGC or even Earth’s government. All that changes once the crew discovers fragments of the red marker, which causes the Unitologists (a religion based on the “teachings” of one Robert Altman) to go nuts (some more than others) and then the necromorphs start showing up to add carnage and death to an already tense situation. Of course the government, which has put a blockade around the Aegis system where the Ishimmura’s remains are floating, gets involved when one of the miners steals a Marker fragment and tries to sell it to them. This brings it yet another faction to the Ishimura and also sets up the upcoming DVD release of Aftermath.

Unlike all the other Dead Space releases, Salvage doesn’t add anything new to the mythos or give any revelations about past events. Instead it’s a fairly forgettable, but decently written, graphic novel that you can take or leave without worrying about losing an important puzzle piece. About the only thing that does come up that is new is a group of government agents called the Oracles, which seem to have enhanced physical and mental abilities such as mind control and the ability to kill someone with their thoughts. Again, the art style really interferes with the storytelling here, so it’s hard to tell what actually is happening in the scenes with the Oracles. What we can definitely say is that they operate outside the normal government protocols and outrank even the Secretary of Defense in the government hierarchy. They also are well versed in Necromorph knowledge and at one point two of them take down a hive mind without breaking a sweat. However it remains to be seen if this group will be encountered in Aftermath or DS2 or if this was just a bit of plot padding.

Salvage is a slow burn, and the first half of the graphic novel is mostly exposition and character development (such as it is) while the second half is action, violence and trying to figure out who, if anyone, is going to make it off the Ishimura alive. It would be nice to see if anything of these characters reappear in Aftermath or DS2, but something tells me that like the characters in the original min-series, you’ll never see or hear of these guys again.

Dead Space Salvage has a MSRP of $17.99 and is suggested for mature readers only. You can pick it up on Amazon for only $12.23 though, and I strongly recommend going that route if you’re going to buy this. Again, Salvage really doesn’t add anything to the mythos and it’s definitely not as good as the first two comic outings. It’s also one of the weakest Dead Space products so far, but it is a decent read. I’d pick it up only if you are a really big Dead Space fan who has purchased all the other non video game spin offs as well. Otherwise I’d pick up Martyr, which is amazingly well written and answers so many questions and loose ends that the games have yet to touch on.

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    • Alex Lucard

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