The initial panels are torn apart by sprayed bullets, broken bodies and spilt blood. It is immediate and exciting, and I found myself instantly drawn into the fray.
Gears of War is a video game that is quite dear to my heart. It was the title that for myself announced the arrival of the Xbox 360 as a genuine console generation contender, it offered visuals and mechanics of the type I had never seen before, and, it was also a damned solid game! A real gutsy, adrenaline-soaked shooter with strong characters and a great enemy.
And now we have a chance to dip back into the Gears world in comic book form. Only this time we are going further back into the mists of the past, we’re changing sides, and we’re witnessing the birth of a legend. General RAAM, the spotlight is all yours.
From the stables of IDW comics, and written by, Kurtis Wiebe, The Rise of RAAM plays as a prequel to the timeline in the original Gears of War game. It offers us a chance to see where the big baddie, whose entrance to the series on screen was one of the most wonderfully brutal and mesmerising scenes in video game history, first acquired his unrelenting thirst for human blood.
As far as openings go, this new series gets off to a violent, unrelenting start much in tune with the theme at play. We open in the warzone far beneath the surface of the planet, RAAM leading his small battered army of grunts against an onslaught from the lambent. The initial panels are torn apart by sprayed bullets, broken bodies and spilt blood. It is immediate and exciting, and I found myself instantly drawn into the fray. And, it pretty much paves the way for a fast moving opening issue that never once drags its feet in putting pieces into place for the reader.
By the close of this opening chapter the story is firmly set for what should be one hell of a ride, we have an anti-hero in place, a sidekick, a villain, and a bigger plot unfolding. We also have a story that doesn’t require previous knowledge of the Gears world to appreciate, it might potentially elevate and illuminate slightly, but isn’t a prerequisite going in to this tale, which is bonus for first timers.
The writing uses an interesting approach to the dialogue between characters. It mirrors very closely the talk that occurs in the games between the Gears Marines, plenty of swearing and gung-ho bravado, with odd added lines that seem to come straight from the pages of a sword swinging fantasy epic. It works well in terms of drawing us into the characters as we look at the world from a different perspective, however, it also feels like both sides of the coin are populated by the same characters in different skins. There appears to be little difference for example between RAAM and the anti-hero of the original Gears game series, Marcus Fenix. But, it is early days, so we’ll see how this one plays out.
The artwork from, Max Dunbar, explodes in a cascade of torn flesh, broken bones and vivid pain from the majority of the panels in issue one, and it works in perfect harmony with a world that exudes dark brooding violence at every turn. There are no redundant spaces here, every single panel carries the story and theme along beautifully.
As a fan of the world there is a lot here that I really enjoyed, but even for those new to the world of Gears of War this is a blistering opening issue that should tick all the boxes marked adrenaline! Occasionally the action is so frantic it can become a little blurry as to what is actually going on, but it certainly packs a punch throughout. Grab it now.