Book Review: Dead Space 3 Art Companion and Graphic Novel

TheArtOfDeadSpace

Need some light reading material to consume in between terrifying play sessions with Dead Space 3? Titan Books has you covered with two new companion readers, The Art of Dead Space and the Dead Space: Liberation prequel graphic novel.

It wouldn’t be a triple-A game launch without a companion art book, and Titan’s The Art of Dead Space is a classy hardbound accompaniment to the Necromorph-dismembering terror of the Visceral Games space-horror franchise. Over 300 pieces of concept artwork and design sketches present a beautiful, bone-chilling journey through the artistic origins of the entire Dead Space series, including the three main games, Extraction, Ignition, and even the graphic novels Salvage and Liberation.

The Art of Dead Space’s pages are splattered with Necromorph concepts and weapon blueprints, jaw-dropping spacescapes and the religious symbols of Unitology. With artwork from the complete series, it’s fascinating to see how the characters and environments evolve from game to game without compromising the core artistic values and tense atmosphere that make Dead Space so visually recognizable. Isaac Clarke’s evolution is of particular interest. It’s so odd seeing his original concept as this generic, buff bro-man video game hero before donning the heavily ribbed engineering suit that has made him a star. I also found charting the progression of environments interesting, going from the terrifyingly confined corridors of the USG Ishimura in Dead Space to the expanse and diversity of the Sprawl space station in Dead Space 2, and now on to the frigid planet of Tau Volantis players will explore in Dead Space 3.

But who am I kidding here? Most people picking up a copy of this art book are probably going to jump straight to the Necromorph chapter, and I for one wouldn’t blame them for doing so. There is a disgusting fascination that comes from eyeballing images of frightening creatures made up of protruding bone fractures, tearing flesh, and body innards that have turned into gory tentacles. The story behind the inspiration for the Necromorphs is just as disturbing. The book debunks the myth that car accident photos were a source of inspiration; however it does reveal that the art team paid a visit to the local butcher to scrounge up experimental animal carcasses, including a goat that was pulled apart and had its insides squished and squeezed. Boy, I sure hope PETA isn’t reading this right now…

Interesting design insights such as this combined with nearly 200 pages of glossy artwork make The Art of Dead Space a no-brainer collectible for any fan, and at just $34.95 it’s more affordably priced than many premium art books tend to be. My only slight disappointment is with the cover. It’s cool and all, but for some reason it just doesn’t jump out and catch my eye. I don’t know, maybe it’s the red and black color scheme, which I don’t immediately associate with Dead Space. There is a $75 Limited Edition version coming in March with a more attractive laminated slip-case, though, so if you’re looking for this to take over as your next coffee table art book you may want to save up some extra cash and hold out for another month.

DeadSpaceLiberation

If you’re looking for expanded fiction to go with your art appreciation, Titan Books is also offering a brand new Dead Space graphic novel. Serving as a prelude to the events to come in Dead Space 3, Liberation, written by Ian Edginton, is dedicated to deepening the backstory for Earthgov Sergeant John Carver, Isaac Clarke’s new co-op buddy.

As the story starts, Carver is out on patrol on the planet Uxor, when suddenly the Marker site where his wife works as a scientist and lives with their son is attacked by fanatical Unitologists. From there he connects with Ellie Langford, who you should remember from Dead Space 2, and her companion Captain Robert Norton to help complete his wife’s research, which has uncovered some sort of cover-up involving ages old Marker tampering.

The story doesn’t go into great narrative detail, and the writing isn’t the most compelling you’ll read in a graphic novel, however the book as a whole does set the stage for Dead Space 3 in a meaningful way. I don’t want to spoil your reading with anything specific, but let me just say that you will gain greater understanding for Carver’s motivations — why he’s headed for Tau Volantis and why he’s searching for Isaac Clarke — and that alone should make it a worthwhile read for any series fan interested in growing their knowledge of Dead Space lore.

Of course, the artwork is the real reason many fans will love Liberation. Continuing his work from the previous Dead Space graphic novel, Salvage, artist Christopher Shy’s illustrations paint a hauntingly beautiful visual narrative that couldn’t mesh with Visceral Games’ sci-fi horror universe any better. There’s a painterly photo-realism to the art that just seems so much more sophisticated than the average comic book/graphic novel. I also appreciate how dialogue is expressed without the traditional use of speech bubbles. Much like the immersive clutter-less UI used in the Dead Space games, the lack of speech bubbles clears more room for the artwork to take the spotlight on every page without impacting the reader’s ability to follow the flow of the text.

Dead Space: Liberation is available now for $19.99. Alongside Liberation’s hardcover release today, Titan Books has also reissued the two previous graphic novels, including Salvage and a compilation of the original six-volume Dead Space comic series along with Extraction, written by Anthony Johnston and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. These re-released softcover editions also feature new bonus gallery sections containing concept sketches and alternate novel pages. Dead Space: Salvage is $14.99 and Dead Space is $17.99.

[nggallery id=2807]

Review Disclosure: Copies of The Art of Dead Space and the Dead Space graphic novels were supplied to VGBlogger by Titan Books.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!