As I was in the checkout line of my local comic shop and flipping through the pages of Gears of War #1 I had a striking thought. Why was this comic being released so late in the game? It’s obviously made to cater to Gears of War fans yet its first issue #1 is coming out only three weeks before the latest game hits shelves. It would make so much more sense if Wildstorm launched this title maybe three or four months ago to get a rough storyline under their belts, and if the writing is strong enough and narrative engaging enough, it will suck in some new fans to the property that otherwise wouldn’t have turned an eye to Gears of Wars 2 or gamers in general which could have then sold more copies of the game and Xbox 360s. That’s simple marketing.
Like I mentioned before; this book is only for the hardcore of the hardcore Gears fans. Although these people are this book’s target audience, Joshua Ortega does not even attempt to write this book with outsiders to the franchise in mind. Characters name drop events from the original game and supporting characters without so much as mentioning who or what they are, or their significance. One particular scene has Dom Santiago, a member of Delta Squad, the game’s lead group of soldiers, telling a camp story about one of his and Marcus Fenix’s disastrous missions. He talks about a character named Anya but makes no mention that she is the “Control” the squad talks to earlier in the issue and mentions Jack as if he is a real person and not a little door hacking robot. Then Dom starts talking about Wretches and Boomers and if you aren’t heavily versed in the Gears lore then these enemies mean absolutely nothing to you. Nor do they make you scared or terrified for the survival of our heroes because you have no idea how dangerous these creatures are or why they are being talked about in a camp fire story. If Ortega just put a little more care into his dialogue, detailing a little more background through his character interactions, it would have went a long way to make this title friendlier to a wider audience.
For everyone else who has played the original game and are amped for the Gears sequel then Gears of Wars #1 does show promise for a continuing series based around the franchise. Although not a whole lot happens in this first issue, we are introduced to the book’s central figure (outside the characters from the original game) who is a young rookie being teamed up with Delta Squad. Because he is newly recruited and inexperienced it adds a new dynamic to the group because he's the black sheep of the crew. We also meet a character that will be appearing for the first time in Gears of War 2 and see a lot of locusts being chainsawed. The jury is still out on what the actual forward drive of this comic series will be besides being a superfluous bridge between the two video games. Hopefully something comes of this and we get a story that can be regarded as Gears of War 1.5 with a kick-ass story all its own.
At times I was really impressed with what I saw in Liam Sharp’s art, such as the title page for this issue. He can draw some great COG armor, but other times panels looked muddied with some strange choices for transitions between panels. It’s clear that Sharp’s greatest strength is in the quieter moments and the facial close shot; he really nails them out of the park. That might be a bad omen because Gears of War is known for a lot of things and quiet, talkative moments ain’t one of them.
If you’re a Gears of War fan and also a fan of comics this book will probably be a no-brainer. You might as well test the waters with the first issue and see if the following books are something you want to invest in. But the sad truth is that Gears of War video game fans aren’t going to be flocking to their local comic shops so the publisher should have targeted this book out to a different audience, strictly comic book fans looking for something new. Sadly, Gears of War #1 doesn’t really hit that demographic. Hopefully Ortega can touch up his future scripts and make them more user-friendly to readers outside hardcore Gears fans and pull in a much wider audience.
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