Book Review: The Art of Dead Space
by Alex Lucard on February 11, 2013

The Art of Dead Space
Publisher: Titan Books
Page Count: 192
Cost: $34.95 ($23.06 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 02/05/2013
Get it Here: Amazon.com

We’ve been very Dead Space oriented the past few days here at Diehard GameFAN. We’ve done a review of the new graphic novel Dead Space: Liberation, a review of Dead Space 3, and we even have a contest where you can win a copy of the game. Now it’s almost time to end with what just may be the most impressive release from this latest round of Dead Space products – The Art of Dead Space.

The Art of Dead Space is an oversized coffee table book that stands nearly a foot high by nine inches long, and contains nearly two hundred pages of art and information on the Dead Space franchise. Unlike a lot of video game art books that contain merely screenshots from the video games in the series, The Art of Dead Space goes WAY beyond that, showing artist sketches, paintings, schematics and so much more. You get everything from character designs down to things you might not instantly think of or appreciate, such as background ideas or even logos and patches for outfits. Heck, for the more astute Dead Space fans, there’s even a collection of all the Peng ads from the various games.

The book’s slip cover is slightly glossy, and shows Isaac from behind with bits of his mask being represented by a slick, almost vinyl substance. The actual hardcover for the book itself is just as striking, being in all black with the embossed name of the game being the only decoration. Both the slipcover and actual hardcover are sure to garner oohs and ahs from any Dead Space fans. Of course, it’s what’s inside the book that you want to hear about right?

The book is divided into eight chapters, along with a foreword by Ian Milham, art director of Dead Space and Dead Space 2, a two page introduction that gives a short overview on the series along with a list of the ten thing that inspired Dead Space (Haunted House by Atari, Alone in the Dark by Infogrames, Sweet Home by Capcom, Silent Hill by Konami, System Shock 2 by Electronic Arts, Resident Evil 4 by Capcom, the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and the following films: Solar, Event Horizon and The Thing) and finally, a page of acknowledgments. It’s a pretty intricate book, and every page of The Art of Dead Space should keep franchise fans happy. About the only thing missing is a chapter devoted to the two animated films.

The first chapter is entitled Isaac, and it is all about the series protagonist, Isaac Clarke. This chapter shows you initial designs for the character that range from his first few designs that looked more like a Final Fantasy character (complete with gun arm!) to his eventual evolution as the armored engineer we all know and love. I found a lot of the early armor designs fascinating, as they ranged from looking like a bulky SWAT Team member, to the pilot of the Cobra Mamba from G.I. Joe. This chapter also highlights the layers of the different outfits Isaac wears in the core three games, and even how the helmets work! It’s all pretty cool. The chapter ends oddly though, with some quick character designs of Norton, Santos and Ellie, along with some NPCs, which seem out of place in a chapter that was, until the end, all about Isaac Clarke. I guess they had to put those pages somewhere though.

Ishimura is the second chapter, and as you can imagine, it’s all about the vessel the first Dead Space takes place on. This chapter starts off with a gorgeous two page spread of the planet cracker in action. This chapter primarily showcases art of the interior and exterior of the Ishimura, along with commentary on why it looks the way it does. You even get a nice look at the subtle bits, like signs that were posted throughout the ship and various CEC logos. Just a beautifully haunting chapter.

Next up is Machinery, and this chapter highlights twenty two pages of weapons and vehicles in all their necromorph killing glory. Of course, it’s not all plasma cutters and futuristic skimobiles here. You also get everything from work benches to power tools in this massive chapter. Much of the chapter just talks about how they took modern tools, like band saws, and converted them into weapons for the games. My particular favorite piece in this chapter, though, involved two pages on the various doors in Dead Space and showing how their locking mechanisms work. Now that’s attention to detail!

Chapter Four, Marker is all about the MacGuffin that drives the entire Dead Space franchise. The strange artifact that incites madness in all those that come in contact with it and has the ability to change corpses into hideous abominations, the Marker may be the true star of the Dead Space franchise, eclipsing even Issac himself. There are nearly ninety different designs the Marker went through before settling on the rib/double helix version we all know and love. The chapter also talks about (and shows) what Convergence actually is, and gives you six pages of art and background on the Church of Unitology. There are some beautiful images in this section that really showcase what a beautifully insane religion Unitology is, with churches blending the feel of 15th century European houses of worship and stuff straight out of a Cthulhu worshipping cult. Perhaps of most interest to Dead Space completionists is a set of sixteen pictograms highlighting the false story of poor Michael Altman (my personal favorite character from the Dead Space franchise). If you’ve read Dead Space: Martyr, you’ll really be able to pick apart fact from fiction. There’s even a hilarious ad for Unitology’s six volume religious text and other items the Church has for sale.

Chapter Five is sure to be everyone’s favorite. Why? Because it’s Necromorphs. After all, these undead antagonists are a lot of why people play Dead Space games. This is the longest chapter in the book, taking up roughly a fourth of its pages. It’s amazing how art can be so beautiful and horrific at the same time, but this chapter showcases that odd juxtaposition perfectly. Here you’ll see all manner of monstrosities, from the earliest sketches to full paintings showing how bizarre and hideous Necromorphs can be. It’s worth noting that the earliest designs look like undead Deep Ones from The Shadow Over Innsmouth with a very aquatic hybrid feel to them. I really loved all the unused designs and the big full page art pieces of these once human creatures. I think it’s safe to say this is a chapter you shouldn’t flip through while eating though. The most disturbing thing about the chapter, though, is that is dispels the myth that Necromorph designs came from looking at car accident victims. The truth, that the team behind the game bought a dead goat from a butcher and then not only pulled it apart and ravaged the corpse, but videotaped their treatment of the poor dead animal, is far more disgusting and potentially abhorrent.

One final note about Chapter Five: there are some Dead Space 3 spoilers in this, so if you haven’t played the game yet, you may want to hold off reading the commentary on these pages and just look at the pretty(?) pictures.

Chapter Six, The Sprawl covers the locations and environment that Dead Space 2 took place in. It’s interesting to see just how big the Sprawl looks from the outside and the overall design of the space station. The pieces here are mostly interior and background art work that would be used for DS2. The toy store bits and the nursery may be the creepiest, even though they’re quite cute in design, if only because you know what will eventually happen to these areas.

Chapter Seven is entitled Dead Moon Rising, and it features the various locations and set designs (so to speak) that you’ll encounter while playing Dead Space 3. This covers everything from the lunar colony to vessels like the Eudora or the Flotilla. Of course, there are also lots of images devoted to Tau Volantes too. Page 166 and 167 are a gorgeous two page spread of everything, including a certain creepy looking moon…

The final chapter in The Art of Dead Space is Graphic Novels, and it’s four pages devoted to the art of Christopher Shy, who did Dead Space: Salvage and Dead Space: Liberation. I don’t really care for Shy’s art, and I was a bit shocked that Ben Templesmith’s work from the first Dead Space graphic novel wasn’t touched on at all here, as it’s definitely the best of the three. Perplexing decision here to be sure.

As you can see, there is a ton of content to The Art of Dead Space. It’s a wonderful book that any Dead Space fan would be happy to get as a present or just purchase for his or herself. Of course, as an art book, you really need to view the pages rather than just read my review of it. The Art of Dead Space is well worth the cover charge if you’re a fan of the Dead Space, so definitely pick up a copy if you or someone you know loves the series; you won’t be disappointed. A little grossed out perhaps, but certainly not disappointed.



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Alex Lucard

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