Written by Alex Irvine | Art by John Aggs | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
The first issue of this series was a decent addition to the rather crowded dystopian near future/ cyberpunk comic book shelf. While giving us nothing particularly new to look at, it delivered on what it promised, helped in great part by the name and character recognition of the Deus Ex world. This recognition is more than just window dressing, as this ‘Children’s Crusade’ mini-series is laying some groundwork for the soon to be released Deus Ex: Mankind Divided console game. As I have said elsewhere, tie-ins are notoriously difficult beasts, often average quality at best, so it was an inspired choice to hire Alex Irvine as writer, a pro with excellent comic book/ science fiction chops.
The ‘heroes’ of the book, or at least the main characters, are Task Force 29, a Interpol backed team made up of ‘naturals’ (non augmented/ powered people) but including Adam Jensen, who is an ‘aug’ (augmented/ powered individuals). Adam Jensen was the hero of the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and he has to fight the anti-aug hostility that is rife in society at this time. This anti-aug sentiment goes back to the ‘Aug Incident’, when augmented people, against their will, were made to attack normal people. Race relations have never recovered.
The events of last issue probably didn’t help much, when a aug kid was detonated as a suicide bomb, the bomb being actually built into him. Alex Irvine cleverly draws parallels between current real world issues with religious terrorism and with Deus Ex aug terrorism, with characters expressing views across the spectrum from ‘let’s all stay calm’ to ‘let’s shoot them all/ let’s round them all up’. The division in the squad is quite clear; Jensen regrets the loss of the aug kid who didn’t realise he was a human bomb, while the rest of the squad could care less about the kid and are just mourning the loss of their team mate. This inter-squad conflict is still largely under the surface, but we know it’s there and we know, like society at large, it is struggling to remain there. The use of racism, or blinkered and stereotyped views of those different to you, is nothing new, but Irvine uses it well here, complicating the equation by making us see there is much to like and dislike on both sides. Some of the attitudes in Task Force 29 are very close to the line, yet these are professional soldiers doing a difficult job. Should we like them? should we not?
Attitudes are tested further when the investigation takes the team to an aug ghetto in Dresden, the Glasshutte. Again Irvine invests the reader in the story, by essentially asking are you justified, as an aug, in being angry and violent if you are oppressed, mistreated, and bottled up in a ghetto. Adam Jensen goes undercover but, as a characterasks him, shouldn’t he be as concerned with how augs are living here as he is with solving this kidnapping case. Can he be a positive role model for both augs and moderate ‘normals’, or is he just condemned to be always judged by what he is, not what he does. I really enjoyed the play on themes and values, made for an engaging sub text to the actual action unfolding on the page.
The art by John Aggs suits the dystopian-light society we are moving in here, lots of small panels conveying motion and action, especially in the claustrophobic Glasshutte ghetto. He manages to position the detail in the panels in such a way as well to accommodate the large amount of text. It’s nice stuff.
Overall, a decent continuation from the first issue. The main story is fine, but I am enjoying even more the underlying questions Irvine is asking both his characters and us, the reader.
Deus Ex: Children’s Crusade #2 is out now from Titan Comics