By Marty Mulrooney
Dead Space: Salvage is a graphic novel written by Antony Johnston (Wasteland, Daredevil) with art by Christopher Shy (Soul Stealer). Recently reissued in the UK by Titan Books, the story – set within the same universe as the commercially and critically successful Dead Space video games – follows a group of deep space scavengers called ‘The Magpies’ as they attempt to salvage an abandoned spaceship… the USG Ishimura.
Fans of the Dead Space video games – and if you’re not a fan, this graphic novel probably won’t be for you – will know all too well that boarding the USG Ishimura, especially after the events of Dead Space, is not a good idea. Lost in deep space and sought after by both Earth Government and The Church of Unitology, the ship is infested with hoards of Necropmorphs, dead corpses reanimated by an alien infection and turned into grotesque monsters.
As with the original Dead Space graphic novel, the story follows several different characters, all of whom are outlined at the very beginning of the book via mini-biographies. These characters are fairly one-dimensional (space scavengers, government agents) but Antony Johnston’s writing is strong within the limitations of the plot. The events of the story, rather than the characters themselves, are the main focus of this graphic novel.
Dead Space: Salvage revolves around a group called ‘The Magpies’, led by Captain Jessica Li. Li is an ex-marine who is now captain of the ship ‘Hunter’s Moon’. The other ships in the group are called the ‘Black Beak’, the ‘Sunset‘ and the ‘Liberte’. Each ship has a small crew and together they must fight against unspeakable horrors when their illegal salvaging operation quickly turns into a bloodbath.
Thankfully, Christopher Shy’s artwork is a much better fit for the Dead Space universe than Ben Templesmith’s scratchy drawing style. Each panel is gorgeous to behold despite the extremely dark subject matter, with the realism of the characters in particular making the many gruesome ends the characters meet all the more horrific.
Although the artwork looks painted and can often be quite murky, it’s relatively easy to follow what’s going on and everything looks very realistic, hammering the horror home harder – try saying that three times in a row! There are also no pesky speech bubbles to ruin the presentation of Salvage: all dialogue is simply written where appropriate, with a line leading to the mouth of the character speaking. It’s an effective visual approach that serves to heighten the tension and draw the reader into an extremely uninviting, hostile world.
Dead Space: Salvage doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the Dead Space table, but its gorgeous presentation certainly goes a long way. It’s a creepy pleasure to return to the USG Ishimura once more and the serviceable story moves just fast enough to successfully divert attention away from the lack of depth. Those unfamiliar with the Dead Space franchise won’t find this an ideal place to jump in, but fans of the games should get a kick out the art style and beautiful depictions of deep space horror.
8 OUT OF 10
BOOK REVIEW – Dead Space by Antony Johnston and Ben Templesmith (Graphic Novel)
GAME REVIEW – Dead Space 2: Limited Edition (PlayStation 3)
BOOK REVIEW – Dead Space: Martyr by B.K. Evenson
BOOK REVIEW – Dead Space: Catalyst by B.K. Evenson
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Sonita Henry (Ellie Langford, Dead Space 2)