Written by George Mann | Art by Alan Quah | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
The link between games, comics, television and movies (and assorted merchandise and toys of course) is growing stronger by the month seemingly, and there seems to be fewer and fewer franchises left that haven’t embraced the age of multi-media cross appeal. Clearly Bandai Namco Entertainment, publisher of the cult computer games (Dark Souls and Dark Souls II) have decided the time is right to dip their toes in that particular pool. Which is interesting, as Dark Souls doesn’t lend itself as readily to comics adaptation as some other games, like Deus Ex, do.
While certainly no expert, I have played Dark Souls, and the game is set in a large open world environment, is insanely difficult, and has the main objective of utilising stealth to progress through various adventures. The game operates on a ‘living’ level and a ‘undead’ level, where your character can switch between when he/ she dies. A fun enough game, but how can you retain that core concept and make a sequential story from it? That was probably what was going George Mann’s mind when he signed on as scripter. Mann seems a very good choice, as most of his writing has been in the form of novels and prose stories, so he clearly knows the value in developing strong characters as well as engaging plots, both of which will be needed here to draw us in to this world.
The introduction page is very welcome, giving us a quick background to the story that will be unfolding. The land of Ishra, previously enjoying a golden age under the protection of the dragon fire-fuelled sacred Flame, fell to a particularly nasty curse, that of the undead. A great lord, Baron Karamas, selfishly saved himself by slaying the Wyrm King Andolus, only to condemn the world to darkness by extinguishing the dragon breath that kept the sacred Flame alight. That text page alone could have been the entire first issue, but clearly Mann wanted to jump straight in to some action, which we quickly do (think of that text piece like an opening cut scene of a game).
We start with the female knight Fira and a companion scryer, Aldrich, who are on a quest in a crystal labyrinth for a dragons tooth; I defy you to find a more sword and sorcery sentence than that anywhere! There follows little in the way of story but plenty of action, told very visually, and the temptation of the hero, followed by essentially a ‘boss battle’ at the end of the level, sorry, issue. I know it is only the first issue but I was a little underwhelmed by the end of it. Yes, it felt like a level of the game, though with the main character not dying several times of course, but lacked any substance beyond that. I would much rather play the game myself, than watch someone else play it, which essentially is what this feels like.
Something that also doesn’t help, considering the lack of much substance to the plot as it is, is that there is only 20 pages of actual story, taking away character bios, text page etc. When you take into account some of those pages have very large splash panels, then you have little more than a 10 minute read. Those splash panels are very well done, composed and drawn superbly well in fact, but only remind us of the lack of much else. The art is undoubtedly the chief selling point of this first issue, as Alan Quah delivers beautiful environments, intricate character designs, and some genuinely innovative panel choices. I certainly enjoyed looking at the story.
Being honest, I’m on the fence with this book after this issue. It looks beautiful, and if fantasy is your thing you probably won’t be too disappointed, but for everyone else it lacks enough story and direction to recommend just yet.
It did feel like the game it was based on but, right now, for all the wrong reasons.
Dark Souls #1 is released by Titan Comics on April 20th.