Inside Pulse 12

Book Review: Max Payne 3: The Complete Series

MPCoverMax Payne 3: The Complete Series
Publisher: Titan Books
Cost: $9.99 / Amazon $8.48
Page Count: 52 pages
Buy it here: Amazon link

If you read my review of Max Payne 3 you’d know that I really enjoyed the game. To this day I still believe that it has some of the best third person shooting design of any video game, and while I know of several others who loved the shooting, the story and the way it was told is much more of a divisive issue. While some of the visual effects got to be a little overdone, I really dug how they told it and felt it was an interesting modern noir take on what had previously been more of a pulp style.

Still, the game left some questions unanswered, like what happened between Max Payne 2 and 3. A series of three comics came out in an attempt to bridge the older series to the Rockstar version as well as add some further character development for the titular anti-hero Max. These comics have been brought together in one hardcover trade edition called Max Payne 3: The Complete series. The comics must not have been that long, since all together the book is pretty thin. The front and back covers together are about as thick as the content within them. The quality of the cover, design and binding is well done by Titan Books, though.

The comics credit the story as written by Rockstar’s Dan Houser and Remedy’s Sam Lake, the writer of the original Max Payne and sequel by Remedy along with the Alan Wake series. Art is by Fernando Blanco (pencil and ink) and Matt Wilson (coloring). The art between the two is well done, not only in appearance but how well it fits with the game that the comic is based off of. The lines are thick and bold, shadows fill the corner of rooms, and facial expressions are clearly conveyed in each panel. The coloring is also very well done, with washed out muted colors used for the most part, along with different color filters to help differentiate the difference between when the character is thinking about the present or when he is having a flashback to an earlier time. Lettering is done by VC’s Clayton Cowles and the only that I think could’ve been done better. Mr. Cowles did an excellent job, I just think that had they started using the font from the first two games and moved into using the font and style of the third towards the end it would’ve made a better impact.

The first of the three stories is After The Fall. The comic starts with a scene that is in the video game, a bar where Max finds himself in the middle of an argument between some guido thugs and a woman who brushes them off. The comic starts there and then moves back to how he ended up there. Both in how he ended up there that day and in general how he ended up in that stage of his life. It’s a reflective piece where he examines exactly what it is that compels him to try and rescue the woman in the bar, and he reflects on all the women in his past that he failed, both to protect and just as a man. This comic goes all the way back to Max’s childhood.

The next on is Hoboken Blues. That comic spends more time on the time Max spent as a police officer and feeling of futility and hypocrisy that came with the work. A lot of it revolves around negatively judging decisions he made back then along with the bad decisions he has made since. The comic shows a lot of Max Payne wallowing in self-hate before it move back to the present where a thug is pointing a gun at his head and demanding Max respect him.

The final comic is Fight And Flight. In this final issue a man named Raul Passos makes a timely entrance and helps Max out, buys him a drink, and tells Max that he knew Max once upon a time. The man offers Max a job, which Max is reluctant to take since he already had a goal of drinking, drugging, and feeling sorry for himself that he is currently busy with. Raul plies him with drinks and starts telling stories about how he looked up to Max Payne when he was on the force, and of all the great things Max did in the past. Max starts remembering those things and for a moment it pulls him out of his pity party. When the guido thugs return for a little revenge, Max reacts. The comics ask if he does because he’s still trying to rescue his mother, if he’s trying to be the hero Raul remembers instead of the flawed man Max remembers, or if it’s for different reasons altogether.

The comics are short, but add a significant amount of backstory and character development. Personally I could do without another story of a messed up broken down drunk that reflects on his bad childhood, I liked the air of mystery to the character of Max Payne and having a kind of clich├ęd past is a little disappointing. Still, it does bring up interesting questions and explains a lot of the motivation, both of his actions of past games and the actions he ends up taking in the third game. It connects well to the scene that is also used in the third game.

If you are a fan of the Max Payne series of games I’d certainly recommend reading it. It’s not long and does what it sets out to do, connect the past Max Payne with the present one and bring the story full circle.