Written by Alex Irvine | Art by John Aggs | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
This has so far been a very solid book, thanks in large part to scripter Alex Irvine. The book is designed to be a prologue of sorts to the upcoming game Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Irvine could pretty much have phoned it in if he so chose. Instead, he chose to use the set-up to look at some contemporary themes in a science fiction setting. Questions abound about society, about individual identity, about terrorism and attitudes, real and perceived. The first person narration by lead character Adam Jensen has also been insightful, putting us in the story rather than just observing it. There has also been plenty of time for action of course, Eidos do have games to sell after all.
So far the story has revolved around Adam Jensen, part of the Interpol sponsored Task Force 29. As the only augmented individual (called ‘augs’) on the team he has to deal with suspicion and underlying prejudice from his own teammates, let along the questioning of his loyalties from elsewhere. Distrust between ‘augs’ and ‘norms’ has been a feature of society since the ‘Aug Incident’ when ‘augs’ ,against their will, were made to attack normal people. Last issue saw the team sent to the Glasshutte, an aug ghetto in Dresden, Germany, where Jensen’s sadness at the conditions these people existed in were in sharp contrast to his teammates.
In contrast to the action of previous issues, this issue plays out mostly back at Task Force HQ, as the kidnapped girl rescued last issue is brought there and everyone goes over the intel gained. Politically, things are on a knife edge as well as extremist right-wing media opportunist Titus King whips up anti-aug sentiment. Jensen has the added task of trying to find out who in his team is a mole, as it becomes clear someone on the team is dirty, all while trying to help the young girl who is suspected of being a willing participant with her mother in terrorist plots. Irvine makes a nice point as well that the way the augs like this girl are treated contribute to the militant attitudes of some in the aug ghettos. It’s a very sad circle of hatred and extremism. Jensen takes the girl Emilia to be reunited with her mother, and only narrowly escapes being killed when the mother is murdered and the girl again kidnapped.
With plenty of dangling plot threads and a realisation that nobody may be what they seem, Irvine delivers a solid issue that puts the ‘dys’ into dystopian. We have the obvious science fiction setting, but the themes go far deeper than that. Then again, science fiction has always been used to serve up stories with messages, so Irvine is just following in a grand tradition. The tension in the team, the way each discovery points away from the obvious, the way pressure brings people’s real views and opinions to the fore all make for excellent drama.
Although the art by John Aggs still suits the tone of the story, I found myself liking it less this issue. A little too scratchy and rough, noticeable perhaps because there were more scenes with little or no action and he seems less comfortable with these. The big action scene at the end confirms this for me, a scene he designs and lays out nicely.
Although the main storyline is fine, what elevates this most is Irvine’s play on those themes and emotions that make these people tick. It does feel as though things are really going to start to click into place next issue, and I look forward to seeing how that all plays out.
Deus Ex: Children’s Crusade #3 is out now from Titan Comics