Review: The Art of Darksiders IIA book review article by: Dylan B. Tano
UDON's Art of Darksiders II acts as a showcase for Joe Madureira's (henceforth known as Joe Mad) art design for the game Darksiders II. In Darksiders II you play Death, a member of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Your goal is to prove War innocent of the destruction of Earth and the end of humanity. Joe Mad handled the high end conceptual art designs for Darksiders II, putting forth a lot of the character, location and weapon designs that made it into the final game. Personally, I didn't know there could be so many variations of scythes and axes, but Joe proved my brain wrong.
Darksiders II's armory consists of a lot more than just blades and axes. The wonderful thing about these books is that you get to see the creative process behind the scenes of some of the big blockbusting games. For instance, Darksiders has a distinctive edgy and tense feel to all of the characters, weapons and scenery. Joe demonstrates how he applied that distinctive style to the weapons you'd find in the series by showing all the different rounds of heavy axes. They start off fairly simple, but as each round of axes gets drawn they get more and more complex, finally ending with the exaggerated curves and etchings. Did I mention that these weapon designs are awesome? Cause they are. Seriously, there is a scythe that looks like its blade extends from the chin of a skull that is attached to the handle. Obviously that skull belonged to Bruce Campbell a.k.a. The Chin, which means sadly he did not escape the apocalypse. And here I am still talking about scythes and axes! There are also polearms and hammers and maces and fist weapony thingies designed to make Wolverine jealous! This game has more weapons than you can shake a stick at, but sorry no stick here, just some awesome Joe Mad infused, skull laced and flame branded murder weapons. Actually, Mr. Mad does a wonderful job of mixing weapon designs up throughout the process, angels have their own neat, knight-like golden weapons while demons and the like feature a darker more death oriented tone. Meanwhile, the weapons for the makers feel slightly dwarfish; which matches their style as well. The weapons themselves are as varied as the characters who use them, everyone from the constructs to the makers to death himself has their own unique weapon and character design.
So the weapons may bring death, but what good are they without monsters and men to wield them? Joe Mad's experience with comic books (Avenging Spider-Man and X-Men) comes into play here as the hero of our story, Death, doesn't have a mouth. All his expression is conveyed through his eyes and facial contortions, which is a pretty common thing when you're drawing a hero who wears a mask. There are some neat sketches that zoom in on Death's eyes exhibiting various different emotions. There is even a look I could have sworn I've seen Deadpool use. Death himself carries that same tense and edgy feel that is the games trademark. Mr. Mad brings death to life in perhaps the only way you could make death a hero. He pulls the reaper persona out of death, leaving a lean yet muscular figure ready to wade through masses of enemies.
Of course, if those enemies were bland and uninteresting then we might feel inclined to look past them. Thankfully Joe took his time to design some wonderfully fun enemies. The angels feel slightly inspired by the Diablo franchise. They're big and warrior-like. They've got massive eagle-esque wings, not the dainty cherub things you'd find in your grandma's house. Then there are the Constructs, which are perhaps my favorite -- hulking golem-like figures carved out of stone with runes etched into their frames. Several of the concepts vary depending on what element they're designed after such as earth, fire and the wheel (there is a rideable construct). I know what you're thinking; the wheel isn't an element. Well you're right now lets move on. There are several pages dedicated to construct heads and heads alone. That is insane.
One of the great things about this is that you get to see Mr. Mad's process when it comes to fitting the characters and clothing together. there are several where two sketches are layered together showing how the character fits into their armor. Joe also writes plenty of notes and blurbs to his drafts. The Noss, a long and thin creature with mini volcanoes on his back, is titled "walker thingie of doom who eats puppies." It is the little things that let you know Joe really enjoys his work. Honestly, getting a chance to see how a great artist like Joe Mad goes through the design and editing price very well may be worth the price of the book.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of written segments detailing his thought process or why he chose one thing over the other. As a matter of fact there isn't much narrative in the art book at all till the end when they go into some detail describing the feel of Darksiders art how they used a simple piece of pottery to explain it to the staff. Basically, Darksiders is very minimal on curves. That is primarily how they achieve the effect they're looking for. That minor complaint aside, this is a book full of the amazing Joe Mad's artwork. There are a lot of neat tidbits that I didn't even touch on here like the amazing landscape designs or the storyboard examples they feature briefly toward the end.
Dylan B. Tano is a relatively new reviewer powered by a love of bacon and constantly distracted by a kitten who would rather use his laptop as a bed. He grew up idolizing Spider-Man and can't believe he gets to review comics all day.
You can read some of his short stories at tanoworks.tumblr.com