By Marty Mulrooney
Dead Space is a graphic novel written by Antony Johnston (Wasteland, Daredevil) with art by Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Dark Days). Recently reissued in the UK by Titan Books (it was originally released to tie in with the video game Dead Space in 2008, which was also written by Johnston), the story mostly follows P-SEC Sergeant Abraham Neumann as he attempts to survive a Necromorph outbreak on a distant human colony.
The story of Dead Space serves as a prequel of sorts to the first video game in the hit science fiction survival horror series, which recently saw its third main instalment released (Dead Space 3). After some surprisingly detailed text biographies of the not yet formally introduced main characters, the story begins with P-SEC Sergeant Abraham Neumann recording a video log where he proclaims ‘We are fucked’ before imploring the viewer to nuke the colony.
Five weeks earlier ‘Bram’ Neumann is shown as a calm, collected man. Stationed on a human colony on a distant planet, everything seems to be going as planned. Yet before long, when a dig team uncovers a twisting alien Marker covered in strange symbols, the people of the colony begin to experience hallucinations, psychosis and paranoia. Religiously frenzied ‘Unitologists’ start congregating, violence breaks out, people die and soon there is a full-blown Necromorph outbreak – if you don’t already know what a Necromorph is, this probably isn’t the graphic novel for you.
The story isn’t particularly original – but much like the Dead Space video games, the overall mood, style and relentless sense of dread goes a long way. Sadly, Templesmith’s art can become a bit confusing at times. The scrappy, frenzied style lends itself well to the subject matter, but it can often become difficult to identify certain characters from one panel to the next. It looks pleasing enough overall (especially the use of red shading whenever something violent is happening/about to happen) but it doesn’t ever really successfully capture the visual style of the video games.
Elsewhere Johnston’s writing is actually pretty good, and despite a fairly routine plot the dialogue mostly rings true – after all, there are only so many ways a person can react to being terrified out of their mind. This is a story driven by events rather than character development – coupled with the occasionally confusing artwork, one could easily start to look with mounting suspicion at the extremely generous opening character text biographies. Rather than being there to flesh out the story, they might simply be a case of trying to fix something after the damage is already done.
It’s a shame, because the graphic novel’s final story revolves around Isaac Clarke’s infamous girlfriend Nicole (Mr Clarke of course being the protagonist of the main Dead Space trilogy of games). There was potential to make this story far more involved – as it stands, it makes for a pleasant little coda full of wasted potential. Overall, Dead Space is an enjoyable enough read for fans of the games, but without being read in context it would undoubtedly score much lower.
7 OUT OF 10