Written by Alex Irvine | Art by John Aggs | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
As cross platform tie-ins go, this has been pretty good. Rather than being constrained by the restrictions of writing something that exists essentially to draw attention to an upcoming game release (that’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided if you want to look it up folks) , Alex Irvine has used it as a canvas to superimpose some of his views on society and the nature of our interaction with each other. Yes it’s well-worn territory in comic book circles, Stan Lee did the whole mutant hysteria as a subtext for racism thing back in the 1960′s, but Irvine manages to lay off the moralising too much and integrate it into the larger narrative. Adam Jensen has also made for quite a charismatic lead, his narration giving us a personal entry into his world rather than observing it from the outside in.
By now hopefully everyone is aware of the background of the games and this series, with the simmering mistrust between ‘augs’ (augmented individuals) and ‘norms’, average Joe’s like you and me. There are plenty of people and forces at work in society looking to tip that boiling pot over and escalate things further. A microcosm of this is shown in Task Force 29, in which Adam Jensen as its only aug finds himself out of step with his colleagues, even being the target of suspicion himself. Jensen wants to be a unifying force between the two communities, but both sides view him with deep suspicion for his involvement with the other. A particularly hateful figure taking centre stage is Titus King, seemingly intent on whipping up violent anti-aug sentiment at every opportunity, and Adam Jensen wants to discover why.
Last issue ended with the young aug girl Emilia kidnapped from Task Force custody, with Jensen narrowly escaping the bomb that blew up the car though he suspects they never intended to kill him. Interestingly, it is now clear someone on the team helped with the abduction, and it seems that someone is using Titus King to spread more and more hatred, as his broadcasts from the aug ghettos see civil unrest explode. Irvine really makes it feel as though this is becoming a race against time, as Jensen breaks into King’s facilities. As Task Force 29 prepare to engage aug terrorists, including children, the team also wonder if the time has come for shoot to kill, rather than the previous contain policy. Things are escalating at a dangerous pace.
Jensen then makes a case breaking discovery. The leader of the aug terrorist cell, Sebastian, is Titus King’s son, who was given augmentations to help him survive a serious illness. During the aug incident, when augs were forced to kill norms against their will, Sebastian killed his mother, which seems to be the reason for Titus King’s hatred of augs. Something still just doesn’t add up though. Why would Sebastian be attacking humans when it wasn’t them responsible for the aug incident? As all out conflict finally breaks out, Jensen realises that they might all just be being played, and that the people you think are your enemies are being manipulated just as much as you are.
As the story reaches critical mass, it also highlights the fact that although Irvine has proven very adept at juggling themes and plot threads, he has for the most part let events dictate the actions of the characters. Character development has been very light in general, and a little more depth would have been nice on that front. John Aggs artwork is again a good fit for the story, using a variety of panel layouts and size to emphasize key scenes and really enhance the feeling of impending conflict and all-out war in Irvine’s script. The muted colouring also reminds us this is a dark time in a darkening world.
A solid issue that promises to wrap things up nicely with the conclusion next issue.
Deus Ex: Children’s Crusade #4 is out now from Titan Comics