Written by George Mann | Art by Alan Quah | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
The first issue of this book was something of a curiosity to me. How do you take a, admittedly very good cult favourite, open world game with disposable characters and construct a linear story with characters the readers will care about? That seemed a tall order for anyone, but George Mann was a decent choice considering the variety of mediums he has worked across. His approach in the first issue for the most part worked, though couldn’t disguise the fact these characters felt and acted like they were playing a level of the game, even to the point we jump from locale to locale, and have boss fights of a sort. Deliberate homage, corporate oversight, or just working with what you’ve got? I was hoping issue 2 would make things a little clearer.
Last issue we hitched up with Fira, a female knight, and her companion scryer, Aldrich, who fought their way through a Crystalline Labyrinth to obtain a dragons tooth. Their next mission was to then enter The Weeping Forest, ruled by the Everlord, and obtain the second relic they needed, a sword of dragon bone; thankfully there is a map at the beginning of the issue so we can see where we are headed each time, and a welcome flashback reminds us of how in the past a great hero, Karamas, killed Andolus, a great dragon king, and the relics they seek were fashioned from his carcass. These relics have been scattered across the land, and so must be hunted down.
The Weeping Forest was pretty much what you would expect from a forest in a fantasy story. Dark, murky, creepy….oh yes, and full of giant spiders. Why is it always giant spiders? Several pages of fighting ensue which are moderately entertaining, but more interesting for the fact that clearly male scryer Aldrich plays the ‘damsel in distress’ role, having to be continually rescued by female knight Fira. A seemingly wounded Fira then dispatches some strange spider cocoon zombies, before having to face Everlord himself. Everlord is pretty impressive, a huge creature made of wood and plant, and his fight with Fira ends with something of a pyrrhic victory. Let’s just say she gets the dragon sword, but not in quite the way she expected.
For me, this was again a very decent stab at a fantasy story, but more noticeable for its limitations than anything else. Again, it just feels like a level of the game, but less fun as we are not actually playing it. Go to location. Kill creatures. Kill more creatures. Fight boss. Obtain prize. Rinse and repeat. This is not a criticism of the writer, more the format and the genre. I think Mann does pretty well, as he breathes some personality and history into characters and locations, but ultimately the formulaic nature of what he has to work with prove too much.
The artwork, by Alan Quah, is again very good and very well suited to the material. It is a book that must get by on visuals and he delivers that very well. Detailed, vibrant backgrounds and environments, great looking characters with nicely designed armour and clothes, and of course suitably menacing creatures. His choice of layout is always excellent, each page having the panels arranged in such a way to keep the pace of the story flowing, with fight scenes especially flowing organically across several pages. Some great full page splashes as well.
At the risk of repeating myself from last issue, a lovely book to look at but a little light on substance. That may be enough for some fans of the genre, but for me I am looking for just a little bit more, and I am not sure any adaptation of this particular game can deliver that.
Dark Souls #2 is out now from Titan Comics