Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Big Game Hunting - Game versus Comic: Borderlands

There are a handful of comics that only exist thanks to the great success of the games that inspired them. But just how good are these comics when compared to their digital counterparts? This week we look at the four-part comic series Borderlands: Origins, written by Mike Neumann.

What's the comic about?
Fans of the Borderlands games will no doubt be able to vividly remember the opening scene of the first game: four adventurers on a bus in what seems like the middle of nowhere. The four issues of this comic series show how each of those adventurers got there. It is the story of how Roland, Lilith, Mordecai, and Brick were eventually led to the bus that would take them to Fyrestone.

When does the comic take place in relation to game events?
Short answer, it varies. Roland's story takes place about seven hundred “cycles” before the events of the first Borderlands game. The issues for Lilith and Brick both begin with them getting on the bus, and tell the whole of their stories as flashbacks, with Lilith's going all the way to her childhood. Mordecai's story doesn't really give a time frame, and the last we see of him is when he gets hold of a business card advertising for vault hunters.

How true are the characters?
For the most part, it is as if the characters just jumped out of the game and into the pages. Particularly in Lilith and Mordecai's stories, you get the same vibe and attitudes you see on screen. But the comics also do a brilliant job of showing different sides of these characters. Roland in particular shows a great shift in character from the beginning of his story to the end.

What about continuity?
The nice thing about having very little by way of character backstory in the games is that their origins can be written almost freely. Even in Borderlands 2, where some smaller pieces of history between the four characters are let slip, there are enough gaps that their personal stories don't conflict with what's been established in the games. I've not been able to find any errors in the continuity of the storyline.

Sadly Mad Moxxi doesn't get her own comic in this series, but she did grace one of the variant covers...

What does the comic do that the game doesn't, or can't?
The comics essentially do what the first Borderlands game never did: tell their stories. The game is all about completing missions and achieving that final goal of getting to the Vault, whereas the comics show how the characters were brought to that path. The only failing here is that in some places, particularly in Brick's issue, the comic falls into the pattern of showing multiple pages of combat. While some fight scenes are to be expected in this genre, it feels like the comic is being padded to make up for a lack of story. The comic would be better if it spent a little more time on the characters than their combat skills.

Can I read this without playing the game?
Sure! The comics go a long way to giving the audience something to get attached to in each character, and also give a quick look at what you can expect from the game. You don't need to know anything about the Borderlands storyline to dive right in, but having played either – or both – of the games won't make the stories any less interesting.

Want to give this comic a go? You can download the first issue free form Comxiology! You can also pop into Proud Lion where you can grab all four issues or pre-order the graphic novel collection (released in May).

Rae is getting all geared up for a day of gaming this weekend!

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