Review: Mass Effect – Foundation Volume 1 / Author: Mac Walters / Artist: Tony Parker / Publisher: Dark Horse / Release Date: February 18th
The appeal of the Mass Effect series lies in its setting. The video game that has inspired the franchise is set in a rich and deep world, one that has created a large and extremely dedicated following. Though the games are fun to play, storytelling is the key selling point of the series and this means that any related Mass Effect fiction cannot afford to slack in any way.
Dark Horse, who are no strangers to getting an adaptation spot on, have drafted in original Mass Effect creator Mac Walters to create a prequel of sorts to the video games. Given how interesting the characters are in the source material, the stories do seem to almost write themselves. What we have here is a collection of nice little preludes; Walter’s talent for creating engaging heroes is obvious here and all of the stories fit the universe perfectly. Sadly it does not really explore the broader world, and as that’s one of the great appeals of the franchise, Mass Effect: Foundation Volume 1 is sorely lacking.
Even worse, the pacing is completely off. Though it attempts to tell a multi-tier story with various prequel sequences slotting into the broader narrative, this means that the narrative lacks coherence. This is made worse by an assumption that the reader is very familiar with the finer points of the first Mass Effect game. Some of the scenes are brilliant if you know quite why they’re meant to matter so much (especially the opening story), but casual readers are left lost. If you don’t know the game, you don’t care about the characters and that leaves the entire thing a bit flat.
Tony Parker’s art is a little bit bland, which is an unexpected disappointment. Though he does a decent job at mimicking the world of the game, the art lacks the attention to detail that makes Mass Effect so memorable. As a result, many of the pages are a lot more static and dull than they really should be, and though this does not detract from the story, it doesn’t add to it either. The action sequences are messily handled, neither the script or the art seems to capture the cinematic scale that Mass Effect adventures are famous for. As a generic science fiction graphic novel this would be average and bland. As an addition to a broad and popular narrative, it’s a shameful waste. In addition, this is only Volume 1, so, much like its inspiration, it doesn’t really end properly. The die-hard fans will lap this up, but everyone else will be left in the cold.