Here’s a link to the comic in the Comixology store: http://www.comixology.com/End-of-Nations-2-of-4-/digital-comic/17429
I should also note before we begin that this is not just a review of the comic (in this case, Episode 2). It also includes my speculation of how the comic may relate to the actual game. I don’t pretend to be authoritative here (I have no direct experience with the game at all), and will endeavor to be very clear about what is review of the comic, and what is speculation on the comic’s relationship to the game.
Overall, up to this point, my reviews have been lukewarm. I’d recommend that people waiting on the beta go and read Episode 0. If it piques your interest in spite of the hurried pacing and lackluster plot, go ahead and read Episode 1, which is acutally much better. But we’re about to talk about Episode 2. So let’s carry on!
NOTE: Jump to the very bottom for a 1 paragraph TLDR.
The Story, And Some Wild Speculation
I’m going to start with the meat of this comic: the story. This is obviously the most interesting part to talk about anyways, and the place we may be able to grab some hints, or at least get a taste of the “flavor” of the game. As I mentioned, I do hope that End of Nations will be thematically similar to this comic series. In my opinion, the comic is gritty without actually being grim. It has the feel of Command and Conquer more than The Road (link to wikipedia article), for instance. I hate to draw similarities between C&C and EoN, because there are quite a few, but I’m lacking a better example off hand. Let’s ignore that for the time being and move on.
In the comic series, we see various small militias sneaking around the fringes of the Order of Nation’s control, sabotaging, stealing, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. I’m guessing (just guessing mind you!) that the early missions for both factions will be in some ways similar to what we see in the comic. Especially for the Shadow Revolution, whose stated modus operandi is stealth and obfuscation, I expect that we’ll see similar objectives to what happens in the series.
Another element that I appreciate (though some may not) is that in this story, character’s lives aren’t sacred. What do I mean by this? In Star Wars, for instance (or Star Trek) the main characters are never killed off. Obviously, I’m talking about the canon movies (or shows, in the case of Star Trek). Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-3PO and R2-D2 are almost constantly in danger, but all survive. This takes some tension out of the plot of most fiction: you can almost be assured that 75% of the main characters will live. One will die for emotional impact, probably.
This can hold true for novels, but often (in the better ones) story takes precedence. And (fortunately) that happens in the End of Nations comics as well. The story follows the life of one Shane Barrett, and as of the end of comic 2, he’s still alive. I expect him to live through the story (he might even be a character in the game? That would be a nice nod to readers of the comics) but thus far, his supporting cast has had a high mortality rate.
I feel that this is a good thing. The comic shows some steel when it interrupts what appears to be a major plot arc and pulls the Shane into someone else’s struggle. I’m legitimately excited to see how this develops!
One small frustration I should note is pacing. In comic 0, the pacing was atrocious. I had to actually read through it 2 times to understand what was going on to my satisfaction. In a longer comic, with a little more time to bulid a plot, I feel that this would have been better. We see a little of this again in comic 2 (the pacing was actually OK in comic 1, I feel) and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people had issues with the opening pages feeling a little more disjointed than absolutely necessary. The story does get more cohesive and engaging as you read through Episode 2, though. So soldier on through the beginning!
Overall, the dialogue is slightly disjointed, perhaps condensed to fit the limited space of the format. It’s not bad, but there were 1 or 2 places where my suspension of disbelief failed. All in all, though, I had a positive experience reading comic 2, and I’m eager to get started on #3.
Art: The Good, the Bad and the Alien Babies
I am not a great artist, nor an art critic. I’m not a big reader of comic books. I drew a little in high school, did some painting in college, and that’s about the length and breadth of it. But I am interested in seeing what the art in this graphic novel says about the philosophy of the producers.
First, we can see that the world is intended (in my opinion, and as mentioned before) to be gritty without being grim. I belive this is also a philosophy of in-game art in End of Nations as well, though I will wait until I’m playing the game to judge this. The art style does convey this: the faces are all depicted as somewhat rough and weathered, the linework used is a little rough as well, often without the sharp lines and solid blacks that indicates penwork by the artist.
Traditionally, (and I’m not too familiar with modern comic illustration techniques) the rough draft of the comic is done in pencil, and then typically handed off to another artist who redoes the book in pen. This does not appear to be the caes in the End of Nations comics. I’m not sure if this is intentional, done this way to add to the rough and unpolished feel of the End of Nations world, or due to a more practical issue such as a small art team, rushed schedule, or lack of care taken in the final product. My hope is that this move is, in fact, intentional, but I have a sneaking suspicion that at least one of the other mentioned issues plays a part.
The fact that the art is apparently all done in pencil isn’t bad in and of itself though! I actually kind of like it in some places, such as page 1 of the comic and the intro sequence, where it helps add to the dreamlike quality of what’s happening (Sorry! No spoilers here). The issue I do have is related to some inconsistency in the production.
First off, some of the characters look downright weird. This child looks like an alien Gray from the X-Files. I mean, what is up with that head shape?
There is also some real inconsistency with the way characters look in different panels of the comic. In some cases, they almost look like different people from panel to panel. Some degree of this is to be expected, I suppose, but I found it a little off-putting.
The coloring though, is very well done! Tank battles and various and sundry explosions remain the high point of the comic for me. Yvel Guichet does an excellent job of rendering these sequences, and the colorist Tony Avina has a marvelous touch! To be honest, I do prefer the color work in comic 0 to the color work done in 1 and 2, but the lighting remains superb through all 3 comics thus far. The colors are muted without being boring, and I can’t say enough about the lighting effects. This probably won’t greatly alter your decision to read the comic: most moderrn comics have similar lighting. I just really appreciate Tony’s work here. It really helps to set the mood, whether it’s a battle, exposition or interrogation.
The Comic Within
There’s another Home Front comic at the end. These “Home Front” appear to be telling a narrative about some Order of Nations initiative, but I haven’t managed to puzzle out yet what’s going on. It’s a confection of mystery after the main story. I don’t have a lot else to say here, other than that I’m interested to see how it develops. It took me 2 read-throughs to get the point of this one, perhaps I’m just a little dense. Once I saw the connection with the Home Front from last episode, I literally started bouncing in my seat.
The really interesting part of reading the comics thus far has been getting a glimpse into the world where End of Nations will take place: the post-industrial living conditions of most humans, armored companies fighting for murky reasons with unclear allegiances, and the inhumanity, brutality and overwhelming firepower of the Order of Nations. I actually hope these themes are carried out in the actual game.
Now, exuse me while I go read the next comic in the series!
TL;DR: The story is interesting, and is starting to take shape in this third (but really, second) installment of the End of Nations comic series. It has more substance than either of the 2 previous installments, and makes me interested to see where the writer is going with the plot. The art is a little odd, there’s plenty of hear to joke about, but overall I’d recommend it for anyone who’s eager to play the game.