The Dead Space series has been long revered as an extremely successful franchise, an answer to the long standing Resident Evil series, delivering horror and suspense at each and every corner. Needless to say, Visceral Games nailed it on the head. Blending together a brand new sci-fi element with a third person survival horror, Dead Space has proved in three volumes that it has what it takes to stand up to long standing franchises in the industry. As with any successful franchise, we also see a lot of extra content being published alongside of those titles: art books, clothing, posters — the list goes on and on. Titan Books has quite a few Dead Space graphic novels published, as well as two editions (Regular and Special) of a Dead Space art book. I was fortunate enough to get a hold of a few of these, and I have provided you with my thoughts below.
A note to the readers: as someone who has only played through the first Dead Space, I was concerned that I may run across spoilers for DS2 and 3. However, I am happy to report that these graphic novels are either set in an alternate timeline, or take place as a prequel to DS 1. As long as you’ve at least played through the first one, you’ll be in good shape.
Dead Space – Paperback Graphic Novel
Written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Ben Templesmith, the first book I read covers the story of Abraham Neumann and his team from P-SEC, who find that along with the Necromorphs, have a new threat to worry about. A Marker is emitting some sort of signal that is turning the human population hostile. This Marker was discovered by the Dig Team sent to investigate some old ruins. ‘Bram’s’ objective is to find a way to get off of this planet, or at the very least, survive.
Something I always love about works like these are the small hat tips towards things in the game itself. Whether that is seeing these new people running around in those space suits, to using various weapons that are available in the original Dead Space, it always brings a smile to my face. This story does well capturing a lot of the elements of Dead Space that make it unique to the franchise, but unfortunately, some of the horror is lost in this new form of medium. The ‘scare factor’ is all but eliminated due to the lack of ambient noises, the groaning, and other effects that make DS what it is. However, the story is still a solid one, and by no means boring. Towards the end of the book, the author does a fine job tying what happened back into the game, which was actually really awesome. It was one of those moments where you put the book down once you were finished and say to yourself, “Okay, now THAT was a cool ending.”
The art is very comic book-esque. This comes as no surprise, as a quick Google search revealed that Ben Templesmith has been doing comic book art for quite some time. Fans of that look will be pleasantly surprised with each page how well he captures the likenesses of the characters to match those in the game, while still retaining his own look. Also, all of the font is called out in a typical speech bubble fashion, which is nice. You’ll see why I am calling that out here when you get to the next section. At the end of the graphic novel there is some concept sketches, some official art of Dead Space, and a few other little treats, I imagine as a small thank you for the purchase.
Dead Space Liberation – Hardback Graphic Novel
Written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by Christopher Shy, we see a new ‘episode’ if you will involving John Carver, a Sergeant of the Earthgov organization. In this title, we see a return of the infamous Marker that is making everyone crazy, but this time, John’s immediate family is impacted by the Marker. In a race against time, John must band together with some faces who are familiar with the Necromorph incident, Ellie Langford and Robert Norton as they not only try and save John’s family, but the rest of the planet.
Immediately upon looking at the cover of this book, Christopher Shy’s artwork is very different than Ben Templesmith’s work. We no longer see definitive lines and dividers between the people and backgrounds, but more watercolor blend of colors, which are all dark and haunting — exactly what you would expect from an illustration coming from the Dead Space series. His work is beautifully rendered, and seems to jump out of the pages. The shadows seem darker, and yet the colors are called out now more than ever. It really is breathtaking. This artwork, alongside of Ian Edginton’s story bring to life a more believable sidestory than the first title. While both titles are ultimately worth a read, I have a good feeling fans who may not be comic book ‘purists’ (for a lack of a better term) will certainly enjoy this style much more.
Where this book falls a little short is in the writing. None of the text is called out in bubbles, so there are times where the text color will blend in with the background. This can become a little annoying as you read in the book, but certainly isn’t detrimental enough to put the book down. Once again, the end of this title finds a way to wrap itself back into the main storyline of Dead Space, which is a nice little bonus. There are also additional images not used in the main panels towards the end of the book, which are beautiful to look at.
Dead Space Salvage – Paperback Graphic Novel
Written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Christopher Shy, this really brought the best of both worlds, in my opinion. I really like the storytelling of Antony, and based on my description above, I much prefer the art style of Christopher Shy to Ben’s. In this story, a group of pirate scavengers who call themselves the ‘Magpies’ come across the now empty Ishimura… or is it? They come to find that they get a lot more than they bargained for, as the ship is not as ‘dead’ as they thought it would be. Between a government ship on its way to reclaim the Ishimura and this strange threat moving about in the shadows, the Magpies have to decide whether they fight for their property, or die trying.
In an effort to keep from repeating myself about the extras and the art, I will just say that I enjoyed this read the most. They used the font technique that isn’t wrapped in bubbles, however it seems that they had better luck with making the color of the font stand out more in this book than they did with Liberation. Regardless, I’m still not a huge fan, and wish they would have stuck to the bubbles. I do appreciate why they did, as it might have taken away from seeing all of the brilliance of Shy’s work. Still a solid read, and was a nice story in the Dead Space series.
The Art of Dead Space – Hardback Regular Edition
One of the things I love most about art books is that the artists are really given their chance to shine. There are concept pieces, full pieces, colored and black and white pieces, and within it all is usually some commentary, some back notes and thoughts from the team about why they chose a specific direction over another. This book has no shortage of that, clocking in at a whopping 192 pages of full color glory! As I mentioned above, one of the brilliant things about Dead Space is the atmosphere of the game. In order for it to be suspenseful and have some horror elements, there has to be a lot of alteration of the light and shadows. There has to be points where you can’t see what’s going on, and points where even in the brightest areas of the ship there can be something hidden in the dark. This book is able to capture that and much more.
There are chapters that break out the art into different categories. These range from Issac himself to things like the Ishimura and the Marker, all printed in bold inks on very heavy weight paper. There is no shortage of resources used for this book, and if you are a fan of the series, comes highly recommended. As you pass through the pages, everyone who has had a hand in either Dead Space 1 or 2 (or both!) have put in a few words to explain to you exactly why they did what they did. There is as much entertainment in reading those paragraphs as there is in ogling all of the beautiful images.
I’ve seen a lot of art books come through my games: some are bundled, and some are sold separately. In my time, all of the ones that have been sold separately are the one’s that have truly been worth getting, because they do more than just show you some art that may or may not have been used in the series — they tell a story. They talk about the struggle, the creative concepts and the fun had while creating something brand new. They talk about what their expectations were before the game was launched, and now that it’s seen mainstream success, their reactions. They also talk about any follies they had, and looking back on their product, if they would have changed anything on the first go around. All of this in a beautiful, hard back bound book with a sleeve that screams ‘Dead Space’ on the front. It doesn’t take much to love a game, if it hits all the right notes with you, but to truly appreciate a game and all of the hard work that goes into it, sometimes it takes that extra step to get into the minds of those who worked on it day after grueling day.
These books are well worth it whether you are a casual fan of the games, but love the industry, or you were a fan from day one.
Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
The following titles were provided generously by Titan Books. Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981. For more information, or to purchase the books mentioned above, please visit their website at TitanBooks.com.