Thinking With Panels: Free Portal 2 Comic

By Alec Meer on April 9th, 2011 at 11:31 am.

Chell's just having a nice lie down. For a few hundred years.

Oh, the hornet’s nest of Valve’s omni-fiction is opening ever-further. Now we have part one of an official Valve comic, which apparently bridges the gap between the two Portal games – as well as introducing another Aperture survivor. Plus, a talking Companion Cube. Or is it?

It’s a Valve-wide collaboration, headed up by famed comic artist/writer Michael Avon Oeming with input from the likes of Marc Laidlaw, Chet Faliszek, Erik Wolpaw and Jay Pinkerton. It is both cryptic and dramatic, and wastes no time in offering a new perspective on some of the critical events of the first Portal. You can read it here, and if you’re suitably impressed download images free from text here. Part 2 lands April 11.

Meantime, the Valve ARG continues. The full bathysphere image, constructed from mystery emails sent to us and other sites by Gabe Newell yesterday has now been unlocked, and appears to point to secrets in Dejobaan’s 1…2…3…Kick It! as well as referring to Newell’s recruitment of various sites to draw attention the larger mystery.

At the same time, volunteers are needed to decipher a further clue hidden in Defence Grid. More details here. This story ain’t anywhere near over, I suspect. Does the comic offer further clues?

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84 Comments »

  1. hogofwar says:

    Incidentally, the binary reads “The cake is a lie”

  2. Mastrix says:

    Anyone who wants to help with the ARG and owns Defence Grid, please go to the following link at the wiki, and follow the instructions. Any help is appreciated, and we’re currently amassing “recruits” for the current portion of it. Thanks!

    http://valvearg.com/wiki/DGrid_IDs#INSTRUCTIONS

  3. Tei says:

    Great comic :D

    /chapeau

    ˙lɐʇɹoɯɯı ʎlqɐqoɹd ‘llǝɔ ɹǝɔuɐɔ ɐ ɯoɹɟ pǝuolɔ ƃuıɥʇʎuɐ ǝʞıl puɐ
    -ǝlqıɹɹǝʇ puɐ lnɟıʇɐǝq
    ˙ɟlǝsʇı ɟo ʇno ɟlǝsʇı ƃuıplınq ˙suoıʇɐıɹdoɹddɐ puɐ suoıʇıppɐ ‘suo-ppɐ ɟo ɯɐƃlɐɯɐ pǝzısɐʇsɐʇǝɯ ɐ s,ʇı
    ˙uǝǝq ǝʌɐɥ plnoɔ ɹǝʌǝu ʇɐɥʇ ǝƃɐ uɐ ɯoɹɟ ɔılǝɹ ɐ -sndo s,ʇɔǝʇıɥɔɹɐ pɐɯ ǝɯos ‘ʎʇılqıssodɯı uɐ
    ˙ǝɔɐld sıɥʇ ɟo ɹɐɯɯɐɹƃ ƃuıʎlɹǝpun ǝɥʇ ǝǝs ʇsoɯlɐ uɐɔ ı uǝɹǝɥʍ sʇuǝɯoɯ ǝɹɐ ǝɹǝɥʇ

  4. Emil.BB says:

    Nce comic! very good art, good script, damn I love Valve sometimes.

  5. Bodminzer says:

    That was actually properly great. Wasn’t expecting the amount of exposure either.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      Agreed, I looked at it on a whim and found myself drawn in. Now I’m looking forward to part 2.

  6. Nighthood says:

    Why does everything Valve touches turn to gold?

    Games, comics, videos, distribution systems, they just can’t do anything wrong.

    • Starky says:

      It’s because they understand a simple tenant of providing a good service – value your customers and your customers will value you.

      It also helps that they are a privately owned company and not slaves to a bunch of rich parasitic leeches who just want to squeeze every drop of cash they can out of the company before they sell up and move on leaving the company a ruined mess in their wake.

    • Bhazor says:

      Also by assuming your loyal fans are a vast army of pirates who can only be kept in line by adding a spectacularly draconian level of DRM. I mean christ I remember when I first got Half life 2 in the Orange Box and installing Steam and all the updates took six hours because I, like maybe 60 % of the population at the time, had to rely on dial-up.

      Yes Valve games are great. Yes Steam has nice features. But lets not forget what Steam was originally intended for and what it says about the creators. Also as far as money grabbing goes, you played TF2 recently?

      As for the comic, meh. Some lovely artwork but the science babble blends in as about as well as a crocodile in brothel and sounds about as natural and realistic as a Real Doll with a sony walkman inserted in it. When will writers realise using a thesaurus to find the third the third synonym of each word does not make your character instantly sound like a misunderstood genius.

    • Nick says:

      Aww, diddums Bhazor.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Also they hired Old Man Murray to come work for them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      @Bhazor I’ve only played TF2 a few times but the last time was a few weeks ago. Did not notice any money-grabbing. What are you talking about?

      Though I did play it on 360, maybe all the money-grabbing is going on on PC?

    • woodsey says:

      What Steam says about Valve: We’d like this one piece of insurance from you, and you can have this mountain of stuff and good service in return.

      Hardly the Galactic Empire.

    • Vinraith says:

      Mind you, in this case “one piece of insurance” is total control of your game catalog. You may think that’s still a good deal for the service provided, of course, but let’s not pretend there’s anything equal about the power distribution in this relationship.

  7. Navagon says:

    Valve are geniuses at baiting people. You have to give them that. Nice comic too. Cool art Makes me want my companion cube back. :(

  8. JonathanStrange says:

    I haven’t read many actual comics, especially not of the more serious sort, but the art style kinda reminds me of some of the Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman. Bit hard to follow at times but so visually stimulating I don’t much care.

    Colour me impressed Valve. I’m genuinely eager to read more.

    • Epsz says:

      Allow me to recommend anything by Sam Kieth, the guy who drew the first episodes of Sandman. That was one of his earliest works, and his style got amazing during the nineties. The Maxx is probably his most known work after Sandman, but everything’s great.

  9. Dominic White says:

    Ooh, nice that they’re finally telling the full story of the Ratman (Doug Rattman). It was fascinating seeing his silent additions to the story in Portal, so giving us a peek from the other side is pretty cool.

    • Pani says:

      How do you know that was his name? And how did you know all the scrawlings were by the same person?

  10. Dontdrop says:

    I am so incredibly hyped for this game.

  11. WASD says:

    Are Valve trying to say that Doug Lombardi looks a little rodent-like?

  12. DBG says:

    If someone doesn’t know yet, Doug Rattman is the person that left all the marks on the walls in portal 1

  13. Bodminzer says:

    This comic is reminding me that as well as the brilliant humour, there were parts of the first portal that were very very creepy.

  14. LionsPhil says:

    Hunh. I didn’t care for this at all.

    Well, OK, the “reach in past the gears” bit. But that was kind of an aside, and then they overexplained the punchline with the “better use your left hand”. It’s kind of the standard of a medicore (and needlessly pretentious) webcomic, which is way below the usual standard Valve set.

    • WASD says:

      I didn’t think much of it tbh. It’s just more Portal 2 promotion. Free promotion I mean.

    • Bodminzer says:

      Genuinely curious to know what part of this is pretentious? The graphic format? The art style?

    • Bhazor says:

      Reply to Bodminzer
      Well for a start there is the start

      “Reality is a story the mind tells itself.
      An artificial structure conjured into being by the calcium ion exchange of a million synaptic firings
      A truth so strange it can only be lied into existence”

      Basically, at times it reads like Matrix fan fiction.
      But its only the first issue so you can’t judge too harsly yet.

    • Wulf says:

      http://theramblingwulf.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/is-that-really-pretentious/

      Yay. The spam eater strikes again. It seems that any mix of a few words sets it off. I might start having to read into how the actual spammers get around these things and using those tricks myself. Ludicrous, yes, but at this point it might just be a necessity.

    • Ziv says:

      @Bhazor it’s strange and “pretentious” because those are the thoughts of a man who lost his mind. A man who talks to a cube. It’s not meant to try be anything, it’s just crazy ramblings.

    • Premium User Badge

      kavika says:

      @Wulf
      I don’t get it, but I want to be amused or impressed – by a person who made a literate spambot personality online, or a spambot that forms remarkably coherent commentaries.

      Is it some sort of in-joke? Cause if so, woosh on me…

      Or am I just catching your blog late in the game…

      God I’m so confused ;)

  15. Scythe says:

    Did everyone notice the HEV charging station? And the gravity gun?

    • Serenegoose says:

      Yup. I don’t consider the HEV suit significant (it’s a powered hazardous materials suit, I imagine it’s probably fairly common in the HL universe) but the gravity gun is an odd one.

      The Aperture Science Zero-point energy manipulator also sounds… plausible, no?

    • Tuskin38 says:

      Someone Mailed Marc Laidlaw and he just said it was Homage, like the Heavy Statue in the L4D1/2 comic.

  16. DeepSleeper says:

    I guess this means their “extended ending” is being forced into canon after all.

    Oh well.

    • Vinraith says:

      There was any question of that? Why would they have tacked it on if they didn’t intend to use it?

    • Serenegoose says:

      I don’t think the game would be plausible without it, since it would imply for some reason that Chell, having escaped, goes out to the outside world and a: survives, before b: returning voluntarily to the turret infested Hell-lab.

    • Vinraith says:

      That too, though when I finished Portal I was personally hoping for a sequel set in the outside world in the early days of the Combine occupation. Dragging Chell back to the lab is so much less ambitious and interesting in a lot of ways, though it does let you keep GLADOS of course.

    • Serenegoose says:

      I consider the odds of it all being set in the lab slim. They’ve been -very- tight lipped about the story past the first few minutes, and since it’s meant to be considerably longer than Portal 1…. Yeah, I just don’t see it. Valve have been good about rotating through their environments, it doesn’t seem like them to have 2 entire games set in the same lab/backdrops.

      Don’t mention HL1 and its expansions or I’ll send you to Xen.

    • Tuskin38 says:

      It seems like it all takes place in the facility, but in different parts, from all the released media, only few parts look like Portal 1 areas, and those places are Portal 1 areas, only aged.

      But I think its is a safe bet the whole game takes place in the facility.

      IGN released a Co-Op gameplay vid, it looks awesome.

    • Tei says:

      I dunno.

      You guys are not thinking with Panels [tm]. The art that we have seen make the Aperture Science lab looks new and full of posibilities.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      @Serenegoose

      Episode 1 took place in City 17 much like the original Half Life 2.

      The main challenge of a Portal game outside Aperture is trying to bring the distinct portal/non-portal wall design that was crucial for the game to work outside. Honestly the plantlife overgrown heavily aged Aperture looks marvelous so I don’t think Valve feels the player will be too desperate to leave it.

    • Serenegoose says:

      It took place in a fairly wide variety of locations. Citadel, to underground ways, to the streets of the city itself, to a train station. Aperture Labs ‘aesthetic’ boils down to 3 fairly similar looking backdrops. grey panels, offices, or overgrown industrial. It’s not so much the ‘singular location’ that’s implausible as the fact that by and large, Aperture labs looks the same throughout, and I don’t think valve would do that.

  17. Doesntmeananything says:

    I don’t remember Chell being this pretty in the actual game…

  18. Zwebbie says:

    As with Valve’s TF2 and L4D comics, I prefer their game work, where the style is much more subtle, clever, and makes more use of your imagination. The Ratman in Portal you get to see develop and know only by markings and trash that he left behind. The Ratman in the comic is ‘just’ a guy who talks to a cube…

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, this comic is pretty damn heavy-handed.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      I didn’t mind the Left 4 Dead comics as it felt like the game with backstory added in. And the Team Fortress 2 comics were a bit absurd but we had gotten used to the idea that the game had an absurd backstory from all the update stuff.

      This Portal comic feels like it didn’t really grasp the game’s tone though. Trying a bit too hard to be artsy.

    • Wulf says:

      I do, however, think that it was entirely worthwhile for the ‘we put cameras in the cameras’ line.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      Also “Wait a sec. Safety first. Are you right handed or left?”

      “Right.”

      “Better use your left then.”

  19. RadioactiveMan says:

    I love the page when he is taking the anti-psychotic drugs (Page 5). I particularly like the two panels in the middle, where he is pouring out the drugs, and then has a close up of his face- really great art style there.

  20. phosgene says:

    I just had a window pop up while I was playing Super Meat Boy. It had a background for Aperture Science and asked me for a password. I alt-tabbed to try to look it up. Couldn’t find anything. When I alt+tabbed back in, the game crashed.

    Anyone have any idea what that was?

    • Wulf says:

      Yep, they’re a known part of the ARG.

      (I also now know that you’ve died around 19 times or more on the Hell level. >_>)

  21. Wulf says:

    I have to say, unrelated to the comic, I’m finding the ARG terribly compelling at the moment. It’s looking like the small town in Wisconsin really is a simulation after all, involving a bunch of people. One post by Sandy was especially creepy.

    http://valvearg.com/wiki/File:Sandy_blogpost.png – This one, to be exact.

    This is screwing with me so much. :D

    • Serenegoose says:

      Well, it sure was an interesting couple of minutes in the warehouse.

    • Wulf says:

      …yes.

    • johntheemo says:

      I came into this ARG stuff kind of late. There is so much information. The Sandy thing just seems.. weird. Even in the context of the weirdness. I can’t decide if it’s directly related or if the person making it is actually ‘in the know.’ The writing just seems a bit creepypasta-ish. Reminds me of the blogs about slender man and stuff. It’s creepy, but eventually it’s like they’re punching you in the face with a conclusion, and that doesn’t seem very Valve-like.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Wildly hypothesising, but judging from some/one in particular of the patchnotes, it might be that the ARG people aren’t making the progress Valve expected.

      “Silly specimens, I don’t know why I am updating this, you won’t figure it out anyway. You still haven’t solved the last puzzle.” – from the killing floor patchnotes.

      Since they’ve got a launch date of ‘pretty soon’ they might be having to drop heavier hints to meet the deadline than they’d hoped.

    • Wulf says:

      http://twitter.com/HubertUberson

      Hubert is screwing with my head again. Bad, bad Hubert. :p Anyway, this is beginning to sound like we’re dealing with personality modules, here – like the ones taken from GlaDOS in Portal 1, and like Wheatley. And these modules are being run through a simulation, which is why they find having a body so unusual. The odd thing is that it’s sounding more and more like the factory is a representation of GlaDOS.

      Perhaps this is how they were trying to ‘humanify’ (wheeee) the personality modules and potentially GlaDOS in the process. Old Mr. Tuber sounds very unfamiliar with being human, and if you think about it, a pile of personality modules could be considered a pile of potatoes. They’re round.

      Just a random, crazy thought.

      I have lots of those.

  22. Eddy9000 says:

    Did anyone else notice the scientist saying that GLADOS trying to kill them in 1/16th of a picosecond is an improvement over doing it in 1/10th?

    With their grasp of maths it’s no wonder GLADOS became unstable!

    • subedii says:

      What they said sounded right to me.

      http://www.thinkwithportals.com/comic/#11

      “But every time we turn it on, it takes a sixteenth of a picosecond before it tries to kill us.”

      “Last time was a tenth of a picosecond. See, we’re making progress.”

      1/10th of a picosecond is a longer period of time than 1/16th

    • johntheemo says:

      Well, I can see why that would be confusing, seeing as that statement would seem to imply that they wanted glados to try and kill them faster. Of course, it’s a joke, but, still. I can see where OP is coming from. :p

    • aldo_14 says:

      I think “Last time was a tenth of a picosecond. See, we’re making progress.” was meant to be a correction… i.e. ‘it’s not every 1/16 any more’.

      - Cpt. Pedantic(?)

    • Menthol says:

      Yeah, the way it should be read is, “Each time we turn it on it tries to kill us, except for our last (most recent) attempt, when it took longer to try to kill us.”

  23. pipman3000 says:

    my best friends uncle works for valve and i got to beat the game early it turns out glados is chells mother and the combine created the infected.

    also cool comic

    • johntheemo says:

      I want you to know that if this somehow turns out to be true that my brain is going to explode. Not because what you said is absurd, but because I’ll remember this post and how you got to play the game before me.

  24. DOLBYdigital says:

    Wow this is beyond good…. Its fantastic! I just want more and more of this stuff. Normally I hate when companies branch out into many avenues since its usually junk but it seems like everything Valve touches is above average if not amazing. If a company/corporation is destined to rule the world in the future, I would like that company to be Valve :)

  25. Kefren says:

    I had a big problem with Portal, in that I wasn’t sure at the start if I was playing a character who had a memory of what had happened before or not. The second thing was that I saw the leg attachments and wondered if they were external, or somehow bolted through the bone. In reality I would have known/could have checked: in the game I couldn’t. It made a huge impact on my perception of the situation and place. Those two together meant I never got into the game properly because the start was so confusing, which is weird when Valve apparently spent a lot of thought on it. I had similar problems with HL2, to the point where it broke my immersion. HL was fantastic (and Blue Shift, and Opposing Force) – everything I have played since then has been promising but flawed, and left me quite disappointed. Probably related ot the fact that I try to get into games by empathising with the protagonist.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I think what’s clever about Portal is that the initial stages are meant to feel just like a standard, context-free puzzle game. The first impression is meant to be similar to the first impression of a PopCap game.

      I definitely recall feeling this way about the game, that there was no story or character, just clever and interesting gameplay. It made the moments when GlaDOS broke character or you started wandering backstage all the more powerful.

      But yes, Chell is, well, a shell. There’s no doubt in my mind that she has no idea who or what she is, or why she is there in that place at that time. And that’s fine because the first Portal was relatively bite-sized. Hopefully we get to explore more of Chell’s story in Portal 2.

    • Menthol says:

      But does it really matter? Okay, Chell is a former waitress from Argentina who was kidnapped while on her honeymoon, knocked out, and awoke to find shock absorbers grafted to her bones. Or…

      Chell was a grad student at a local university that signed up for human trial experiments at Aperture to help pay her rent, and was given a pair of wearable impact absorbers as testing equipment. Or…

      Insert whatever story you want. Now, does it affect how Portal plays as a game? Not really. But, being more specific about who the protagonist is makes it clearer who the protagonist is NOT:: you. Being vague about the player character makes it easier for most people to take on that role themselves and insert their own story.

      I think the only reason we know anything about the protagonist at all is that the nature of the game means you can see yourself if you try, so they had to at least pick a gender for the model.

  26. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    Beautiful painting / woman saturates my pleasure receptors. Dopamine hit.