DC Denton: The Deus Ex Comic

By Alec Meer on February 16th, 2011 at 7:47 pm.

Like JC Denton, but with a small beard

The prequel has a prequel. Alas, the Deus Ex: Human Revolution comic miniseries comes from the Distinguished Competition rather than the house of M, otherwise I guess there’s a chance our own editor-at-large/Marvel writer Kieron Gillen might have had the chance to pen it. Worlds colliding, and all that.

I picked up the first issue (of 6) and had a look-see today. I’m scarcely any kind of comic critic so I’m loathe to get in deep in a field I’m not particularly qualified to judge, but here’s a few (spoiler-free) general thoughts.

I say prequel, but in fact the comic falls just after the introduction of the upcoming game – the bit Quinns and I recently had a waffle about just here. The comic’s been on sale since Feb 9, and were you to read it today, you’d encounter a few tidbits that we’re not allowed to talk about until Feb 24th, hilariously. It is, however, a standalone side-story, not documenting or (I believe) affecting events in the game.

It documents one of the newly-augmented (not by choice) Adam Jensen’s first missions, which is attempting to rescue a young relative of his boss from a particularly nasty kidnapping. As a backdrop to that, we get a taste of how this world’s fast-evolving human society feels about the growing prevalence of augmentations, with a number of characters treating Jensen with open hostility due to his extensive mechanical modifications. This is, as far as I can tell, one of the key themes in the game too: the conflict between scientific progress and concerns about preserving biological purity.

This first issue certainly raises a lot of the issues surrounding this but doesn’t particularly explore them (hard to do in 23 pages anyway, I’d guess), generally erring towards swearing, snarling and brutal bloodshed. It seems a fair bit less… classy than what I’ve seen of DX3 so far. Especially the wanking scene, which is just weird. I’ll spare you the (few) details, but don’t worry – it’s not one of the major characters.

To be honest, so far the book seems much more interested in Jensen-as-superhero than anything else, pitching him as a sort of posing, perma-scowling Terminator/Punisher hybrid. Which I guess he is to a great extent, but I guess I’d have liked a bit more pondering amidst the action and exposition. Then again, it is an action comic based on what I suspect will be marketed as an action game, plus it has to introduce the concept and the lead character to an audience that might be a little less aware of Deus Ex than we are. Start with a bang, I guess, and the introspection can come later, once you have everyone’s attention.

It is very much a grown-up affair, though: no silly cartoon villains or tame violence here, and there’s some delving into issues of fundamentalism and terrorism. It’s pretty sharply written and very clearly not just a cynical, dashed-off cash-in; it’s just that it doesn’t feel much like Deus Ex to me, in tone.

What works best is the occasional burrowing into the possible psychological effects of Jensen’s modifications, and a certain horror when you’re shown the full extent of just how altered he is. That’s the stuff I hope future issues explore, giving us the chance to see Jensen, his workings and his thinking from the outside rather than from the intrinsically sympathetic inside-the-head perspective we’ll necessarily have by playing as him. There’s definitely some suggestions we’ll delve into his murky history later, which does strike me as something perhaps far better suited to comic-narrative than game-narrative.

The art – not that I know anything about how to critique such a thing – seems pretty strong and dynamic to me, with liberal use of the black and gold palette employed by the game. And again, the depictions of Jensen’s injuries and augs is compellingly nasty.

Would I read the other issues? Not sure. Maybe, but out of curiosity rather than hunger for more. I’ll wait til the run’s finished and pick up the trade or something, most likely. It seems like a fairly accomplished adult superhero comic in its own right, but doesn’t feel particularly like it’s giving me more Deus Ex (which is something I do hunger for). Then again I have only ever experienced Deus Ex in videogame form – perhaps it’s simply my own expectancies and sense of entitlement getting in the way. On top of that, I presume its hands are tied in terms of the game itself’s plot, so there’s a good chance it simply can’t explore that good DXy, conspiracy stuff we yearn for without spoiling the main event.

Oh yes, and someone actually says “Deus Ex” in it at one point, as a sort of catchphrase. Bit jarring that, to be honest.

More details, plus summaries and covers for the next three issues, here.

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37 Comments »

  1. Shark says:

    Tell us more about the wanking scene then.

    • Mr_Hands says:

      What’s all this about a comic book? I came to read about wanking.

    • yhancik says:

      His hands are augmented.

    • rei says:

      That could go terribly wrong.

      Unless his augmentations are more extensive than I imagined.

    • Snuffy the Evil says:

      So is his vision OOOOOHHHHH

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      Ever play the PnP RPG Cyberpunk 2020? If you have you may be familiar with two cybernetic augmentations called “Midnight Lady” and (I think) “Mr Studd”, respectively…

      Yes. DOT DOT DOT.

    • SuperChimpanzee says:

      A bomb!

  2. Jad says:

    It would be interesting if Kieron did have a deeper critique of the comic, considering that he’d probably be a pretty good source for that kind of thing. Actually, it would be cool if you guys got him to do a larger thing about all the game-related comics out there nowadays, although I could see that he might have some conflicts with his current employers on that. Also, he might be busy. Anyway, sounds good, but as you said, not very Deus-Ex-y.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      “although I could see that he might have some conflicts with his current employers on that.”

      This.

      I don’t read many of them, but if I ever found something reallllly good, I’d probably end up writing about it. I mean, I’ve plugged Scott Pilgrim enough here over the years.

      KG

    • Dracko says:

      The co-penned and drawn Cameron Stewart Assassin’s Creed: The Fall comic that just came to a close was genuinely quite good. And I say that as someone who all but despises the franchise. If anything, the comic proved that the story had some legs, if only it was in competent writers’ and game designers’ hands.

  3. sizzlord says:

    I hope he practices on a bananna first, otherwise he could ripe his dick off

    (..yes I stole that from family guy)

  4. Dracko says:

    It’s going to be a six issue mini-series, actually.

    I liked the first issue well enough. Art was far better than I had hoped. You can tell it’s a 2000AD writer, and I was worried at first, but it turns out is wholly appropriate for a cyberpunk comic. We’ll see where it goes, of course, but there was enough at work here to set the table. Loved the Brecht poetry recital echoing of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence during the helicopter ride as Adam fails to hide his reservations about what he’s become. The macho posturing during his physical exam is clearly just that; posturing. He’s obviously broken and desperately trying (and failing) to hide it and I’m very curious to see what becomes of that, in the comic as well as in the game (Playing broken characters in games tends to at least make attempts at redeeming humanity just as consistent as attempts to throw it away, even if you want to be schizophrenic about it all).

    P.S. The masturbation scene is just some mob enforcer shying away from his duties and deciding to rub one out over some under-dressed drug workers, giving Adam ample opportunity to take him out whilst commenting on how his on-board HUD is giving him “too much information” while analysing targets.

    SPOILERS: Love that they riffed on RoboCop with Adam’s “rebuilding” (A film I absolutely adore without any hint of irony, especially in this context here of the ineffectuality of superheroics) as well as Pritchard calling him out on his heavy-handed methods, and that they hint we’ll get to take on FEMA again. I laughed at that one.

    There’s also an excerpt of the tie-in novel over on Amazon US. It does not attempt at all to hide that the Illuminati are involved.

  5. Nova says:

    Oh and Trinity is in there or at least her younger sister?

  6. Resin says:

    I’m unfamiliar with the writer and the artist. Covers look decent though.
    It’s a franchise tie-in mini-series from DC, so expecting anything too breath-taking seems unreasonable.
    Sounds kind of like a Millar-esque (Wanted, Kick-Ass) take on Deus Ex.
    I would read it, but I probably won’t buy it.

  7. dethtoll says:

    Let me just go out on a limb and say that Kieron Gillen is wasting his talent at Marvel. Of course, he’ll figure that out soon enough. The good Marvel writers always do.

    Well, except Fabian Niceza, but -someone’s- gotta stop Rob Liefeld from ruining Deadpool…

  8. coldvvvave says:

    Is it Anna Navarre on 4-th picture?

  9. daphne says:

    “Start with a bang, I guess, and the introspection can come later, once you have everyone’s attention.”

    I suppose I’m quoting this bit because the rest of the entry does kind of read like Alec would go into withdrawal if that introspection… did not actually come.

    Fingers crossed.

  10. faelnor says:

    Yeah let’s totally blow some money on comic book tie-ins (’cause we know how literarily excellent our narrative material is and we just can’t wait for you to find out!) and special editions and viral advertisement and mini-websites and CGI and ‘exclusive’ interviews all over the world. See how it served Mirror’s Edge!
    I swear they spent half their budget on marketing alone.

  11. Mr Ak says:

    Remember the good old days? When it just used to be about the shoes spooning and holding hands? I miss that.

    Well, maybe a little bit of tongue.

    (Yes, I registered just so I could reply to a spam comment which will probably be deleted, taking this with it. Don’t judge me.)

  12. BeamSplashX says:

    I read “expectancies” as “expectacles” and am now hoping DX:HR has such an augmentation, showing you what people expect out of you when you scan them.

  13. pupsikaso says:

    What does it mean when you say “editor-at-large” ?

  14. Kebab says:

    Wait, they want money for it? Aren’t online comics free, paid for by advertising? How do I know if it’s any good if they don’t make the first ~10 pages of the first one available online to read?

    Meh.

    • heretic says:

      I imagine preview websites will be showing snippets, or it might be available with the release of the game (seriously hope so!) – if all else fails, this is the interwebz.

  15. heretic says:

    hmm… Deus Ex and a wanking scene, rule 34 really is true

  16. heretic says:

    ok my comment didn’t seem to go through (too much talk about robot p**is?) anyway, must watch

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114125/

    for this pirate captain with robotic private parts, hilarious when he yanks the pull string (is that what its called? the thing on a lawn mower motor) and revs it up, then goes smth like “ladies go crazy for this”

    ahahah…

  17. PeopleLikeFrank says:

    I see from #2 that the finer points of toilet use take some getting used to when augmented.

    What an embarrassing moment to have your cyborg lady friend walk in.

  18. The Sombrero Kid says:

    not having to be gentle like Mr. Meer, sounds like they totally bastardised the franchise and have little to no understanding of it’s themes, i wouldn’t read it to find out though, because i don’t read comics.

    • Dracko says:

      Well, good of you to put all your credentials on the table, I suppose.

  19. Christian O. says:

    Nice to see some thoughts on the other medium that consumes my life, but who actually drew and wrote it? The article doesn’t mention it.

    • Dracko says:

      Robbie Morrison, who might be better known for Nikolai Dante and his World War I comic, White Death. I wasn’t sure of the choice at first, I’d have thought it would be something more up, say, Jonathan Hickman’s or even Adam Warren’s alley, but after the first issue, I’m in for the foreseeable future. Probably shouldn’t have doubted that a 2000AD stable writer was a perfect fit for a straight-up cyberpunk comic.

      The art is pretty lush and is by Trevor Hairsine. He’s worked on Rob Williams’ Cla$$war (actually, he’s another writer who might have made a good fit, his work on the RoboCop revival is pretty good), but perhaps best known for Paul Cornell’s Wisdom under Marvel MAX.