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DC Denton: The Deus Ex Comic

Featured post 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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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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