If you are sitting here reading this, there’s a high chance that you didn’t get Mass Effect 3 yesterday as if you did, you’d probably be playing that right now. I have my special N7 Edition reserved and ready to be played…as soon as the stupid thing gets shipped to me. How aggravating. Less aggravating, however, is the treat I opened up in my email yesterday from Dark Horse Comics: All three volumes of the Mass Effect trade paperbacks. Since we haven’t had a Comic Book Club in a bit and Mass Effect seems to be a hot topic right now, let’s take a peek at these three volumes and look at whether they’re worth reading, or if they’re better left to the Collectors.
Mass Effect vol 1: Redemption (trade paperback from Dark Horse)
The first volume of the Mass Effect comics takes a look at the in-between story connecting Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, or more specifically, the opening of Mass Effect 2 to the rest of the game. Showing what Liara was doing in order to find Shepard’s body and bring it to Cerberus, we get to see what an Asari with real motivation and crazy biotics can do.
In terms of action, the whole price of admission is pretty much for some cool scenes of Liara going semi-Dragon Ball Z on the Shadow Broker’s mercenaries, all with the goal of infiltrating…someplace and doing…something. Oh wait! She wanted to find Shepard’s corpse, and in order to do that she needs to partner with a Drell and kick not just some of the butts, not just most of the butts, but all of the butts.
Sadly, this just isn’t a story that was dying to be told. The art is enjoyable enough, and the action if fun, but the story itself is lifeless. The point is that we find out how Liara got Shepard’s body back from the Collectors, but we already knew how she did it because she told us as much in the actual game. We already knew that she had to work with the Shadow Broker to find it and that because of what went down, she has unsettled business with him. We also know that Cerberus got Shepard’s body so that they can reanimate it. But beyond that, we don’t see any real character development from anyone, least of all Liara.
Unfortunately, reading Redemption left me annoyed with Liara more than anything. In the first game, she’s essentially a big science nerd who happens to have some wicked biotic powers. She stands normally, despite being from a very sexual race. However, in Redemption she can’t help but stand in the typical “comic book girl” pose: hips askew, chest out, butt up. Her outfit also becomes more revealing just because I suppose. Sure, comics, yay. Of the three, this was just the story that didn’t really need to be told, and afterward I didn’t feel like I learned anything new or that my overall experience was enhanced any. I recommend it mostly to hardcore Liara fans as she does indeed show that she’s a badass.
Mass Effect vol 2: Evolution (trade paperback from Dark Horse)
As I was reading from a PDF file and not straight from the actual trade paperback, I didn’t get a chance to look at the back cover and read that Evolution is the Illusive Man’s core backstory. Had I known that, I’m not sure how things would have played out, but the surprise for me was nice.
Taking place at the very end of the first conflict between the humans and the Turians, Evolution gives us a chance to see how the Illusive Man got his glowing blue eyes, his intimate knowledge of the artifacts, and his motivation to see humans rise above all other galactic species. Getting a chance to learn his backstory makes him a far more likeable character, as well as relatable.
The story itself is a bit on the confusing side, but it involves rebel humans fighting the Turian army and finding an artifact that indoctrinates a handful of Turians and some other stuff. That’s about all I can really get from this despite just having read it, but there is at least a bit more at stake here in terms of characters. The new characters are established well and the returning characters are fleshed out quite a bit more, including Saren, a character who’s motivation and backstory were entirely missing from the game where he’s the final boss.
Due to Saren and especially the Illusive Man getting fleshed out, Evolution is unquestionably the best volume of the three in terms of adding more to the overall story. You learn some more about the characters and how they came to have their specific views, and it functions well to just fill in pieces of the plot. High recommendation here.
Mass Effect vol 3: Invasion (trade paperback from Dark Horse)
Last we have Invasion, a story about how Omega is under attack by something that may or may not be connected to the Reapers and how Cerberus tries to help/hinder Omega from existing as it currently does. The main character here is Aria, the Asari who runs Omega due to being…I suppose just that cool? Like Liara in Redemption, we see Aria get a chance to jump around with super biotic powers, which tend to be essentially whatever the plot needs them to be at the moment in terms of angry energy blasts, but once again it does look cool.
Figuring out the actual plot again becomes a struggle, and even when things are clearly spelled out for you, it becomes difficult to find the time to actually care. The whole time I was reading about Omega’s plight, all I could think was, “I don’t care what Aria’s doing, where’s Shepard?” All three volumes do a lot to hint at Shepard and other main characters being involved in events, such as Miranda showing up to talk with Liara in Redemption and various characters referencing Shepard’s exploits prior to Invasion, but the whole time it’s hard not to just keep asking, “Why can’t I just see Shepard doing cool things?”
One aspect of Invasion does actually make up for this lack and that’s the bonus story tacked on to the end of the collection that introduces Vega, a new recruit to Shepard’s team. Not only does it begin with a news report of events that happened in the final Mass Effect 2 DLC episode, but then we see Vega, a character most people previously know nothing about, beat the hell out of some Batarians and look like such a beast that you can’t help but wonder more about him, only to learn that he’s being asked to join the Normandy SR2. Awesome and worth the price of volume 3 by itself.
Overall, if you have to pick just one, I recommend volume 2, Evolution. It does the most character building and plot discovery, whereas volume 3 is a good second options, especially if you want something more relevant to the current plot and with a heck of a lot of pew-pew explodey action. If you find them all together, snatch them up, but be aware that you can read through them pretty quick, even for a trade paperback (each is only 4 issues long).