Written by George Mann, Tauriq Moosa, Michael Walsh | Art by Daniele Serra, Damien Worm, Michael Walsh, Dylan Burnett | Published by Titan Comics
As big a fan of Titan Comics as I am, and I love 95% of their output, I have struggled a little with the Dark Souls books they have put out. The format may vary, as may the creative teams, but Dark Souls in comic book form has too often seemed too fantasy generic to me. They’ve not been terrible or even bad, and I know there is a huge fan base out there, but for me they have at times come up short as good adaptations of the property they are licenced from. The Titan Comics Deus Ex book was good, the Assassin’s Creed books have been excellent, but the Dark Souls books have lacked the same spark. Maybe too much freedom in adaptation is a bad thing? That being said, I’m all for admitting I’m wrong when I am so I’m giving it another shot with this new anthology series. The strongest format has probably been the anthology one for Dark Souls, and that is the well this book goes back to draw from.
We get three main tales, plus the obligatory one page framing sequences at the beginning and end, a format I remember affectionately from those old 1970′s horror mags. First up is a nicely creepy tale by George Mann and Daniele Serra, ‘The Savior’, just oozing atmosphere. Not so much a story as a single scene on a handful of pages, it has impact for sure. The art is gloriously scratchy and gloomy, capturing the darkness and desolateness well. Tale two, ‘The Infected’ is written and drawn by Michael Walsh. Different in style and tone to the previous tale, but using every inch of its five pages, it is also a decent quick glance into that world. The third story is ‘Witches’ by the team of Tauriq Moosa and Damien Worm, perhaps the books strongest tale. Story and art are equally strong, with effective dialogue. The painted art perfectly suits the fantasy format too.
I am afraid after reading this first issue my same reservations are still there. As a casual player of the Dark Souls game I perhaps lack enough investment in this world as I do with say Assassin’s Creed, a game and world I visit frequently. Having said that, I do enjoy fantasy as a genre, and the three separate tales here are all perfectly fine. Although very short they all have good scripting and good art, so no problem there, but they fail to draw me into that world. These stories could be set in any number of fantasy lands and still work, making the Dark Souls title more a selling tool than a creative one.
I know the openness of the game does not lend itself well to linear storytelling, but it is possible. These slight stories remind me of the 4-5 page samples aspiring writers send in to editors to show what they can do, but none of the creative people involved are aspiring writers obviously. Seasoned pros to a man. Visually as attractive as anything out there, but not a book I could recommend to the casual reader. To a casual fan like myself it feels generic. To a fan of the games, and a real fan of the fantasy genre I would recommend it, because I am willing to bet there are a lot of little nuances I am missing. It does what it does well, but what it does is aimed at very much a niche market, albeit a very loyal one.
So I’ll do a classic ‘sit on the fence’. Not for me particularly, though I think the artwork is excellent, but recommended for the gamers and the fantasy lovers out there.
Let’s see if next issue can win me over.
Dark Souls: Tales of Ember #1 is out now from Titan Comics