Thursday, February 16, 2017

Random Thoughts On… Mass Effect: Redemption and Mass Effect: Evolution

Wow, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted anything! Maybe I’ll let it last a month… or not.

While I’ve been on my sabbatical, I’ve been in a bit of a Mass Effect fix. Mass Effect: Andromeda is right around the corner, so a revisit was needed. Heck, since the beginning of year, Bioware has been my go-to developer for a bit.  I played through Mass Effect again and it is still really good. I played some of Jade Empire last month and decided to face the Collectors again with Mass Effect 2. Somehow, I lost Mordin again. A tear was shed for the cool salarian. Right now, I’m finishing off the trilogy with Mass Effect 3.

While playing the games, I started to think about a couple of Mass Effect trade paperbacks I picked up some time ago. I think it was at McKay’s but I really don’t remember. It was a while before I really read them. They were tie-ins done by Dark Horse around the time of the Mass Effect sequels and they center on certain characters from the series. Today, I thought I’d give a bit of an overview of these two trades.

Mass Effect: Redemption was released around 2010. It contains one storyline. The next trade, Mass Effect: Evolution, was released in 2012. It not only contains a four-part storyline but two short stories. Mac Walters, the creative director for the games, handled the story for these two trades and later ones that I won’t be talking about today. John Jackson Miller handles the script and dialogue. The artwork for Redemption and Evolution was done by Omar Francia. Incursion’s artwork is done by Eduardo Francisco while Inquisition’s artwork is done by Jean Diaz. The colors and letters for all the stories were handled by Michael Atiyeh and Michael Heisler.

Here’s a small rundown of the stories:

Mass Effect: Redemption
This storyline pretty much centers on how Shepard’s body got into the hands of Cerberus, a pro-human black-ops group. A few months after the Normandy SR-1 was destroyed, Liara T’Soni (one of Shepard’s teammates) headed out to look for Shepard’s body. She got word that Shepard’s remains are in stasis and they’re in the possession of the Shadow Broker, a person who funnels all sorts of stuff through the galaxy. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one looking for them. A race known as the Collectors and Cerberus is also searching for the body. With the help of Feron, a drell informant who has many ties to different groups, she’s able to get it. Feron is captured by the Collectors though and handed to the Shadow Broker. In the end, Liara hands Shepard’s body to Cerberus since they actually want to revive him in order to fight the Reapers.
Uh, Miranda? What happened to your face?

Mass Effect: Evolution 
This story centers on Jack Harper who is later known as the Illusive Man. It takes place in 2157 during the end of the First Contact War between humanity and the turians, a powerful alien race. In the story, he and his mercenary team encounter Reaper technology for the first time during a battle with turians. The Reaper monolith was in the care of turian scientists. It changes Ben, one of his squadmates, into a subservient super-soldier while Harper experiences visions, can understand unknown languages, and has his eyes changed.  Before more can be known by Harper, humanity and the turians end their war. Ben, who’s pretty much changed, stays with the turians.
Saren... not that bad when he's not indoctrinated. 

Still, Harper is worried what the monolith could do, so he and another squadmate head into turian space. There, they find Desolas, a turian general, in possession of the monolith. We also run into Saren, a turian Spectre and the villain from the first game. Desolas takes the monolith to an ancient turian temple and uses it to change more of his people. As more and more turians are changed by the devices, Harper and Saren realize what the monolith actually is. He and Eva try to destroy it, but she ends up getting killed. Ben, who was able to keep some of his mind in check, ends up sacrificing himself to take the device out. In the end, Harper takes Eva away and Saren has the temple destroyed by a bomb. The story abruptly ends with Harper, now as the Illusive Man, leading Cerberus.

Mass Effect: Incursion
This 8-page story takes place before the Collectors destroyed the Normandy in Mass Effect 2. It’s a day in the life of Aria T’Loak, the head of Omega. Her bodyguards get word of something going down on Omega involving a gang called the Blue Suns. Aria thinks more is going on, so she accompanies her men. When they reach the meeting site, it turns out that the Blue Suns are selling humans to some of the Collectors. A fight breaks out with Aria and her men taking out the Collectors, the slaves, and most of the Blue Suns. After some interrogating, it’s revealed that the Collectors are harvesting humans and they aren’t just stopping with Omega.

Mass Effect: Inquisition
The final 8-page story looks at another small character from the series: Captain Bailey of C-Sec (Citadel Security). It takes place after the events of Mass Effect 2. In the story, Councilor Udina… wait, Councilor “Jackass” Udina, gives Bailey a job to do. It turns out that Executor Pallin, a turian who’s head of C-Sec, is involved in some seedy business with the Council’s enemies. “Butthead” Udina tells Bailey check out Pallin’s office and Bailey reluctantly takes the job. He heads to Pallin’s office at night and finds a couple of other C-Sec officers dead by Pallin’s hand. Pallin swears he’s innocent but a fight breaks out and Bailey kills Pallin in self-defense. In the end, Bailey delivers this information to “Poopoohead” Udina with some doubt on Pallin’s villainy. “Idiot” Udina blows it off and promotes Bailey to the role of Commander and head of C-Sec.
 As you can probably tell, I don’t like Udina.

While I had some qualms here and there, I thought these two trades were fine for the most part. One good thing I cans say about all of the stories is that they felt entrenched in the Mass Effect universe. Not only did we have familiar characters, but the looks, the tech, and the different jargon felt right. I guess that happens when you have someone so involved in the games heading the thing. Even when the storytelling and some art weren’t gelling well, things at least felt right.

I liked that the stories tried to further look at characters and things not touched on in the games. It would have been hard to even try recreating things involving Shepard, so I’m glad that companions and other NPCs get some time to shine. In Redemption, we see how involved Liara was in getting Shepard to Cerberus. We even see her become a bit more hard-edged here. She isn’t just an asari historian anymore. The two short stories were also nice in that they featured two interesting characters. With Aria, we just got to see how ruthless and powerful she was. The short with Bailey was the better of the two though. Not only was it an interesting story, it also explained what happened to a character from the first game.

Of the four stories, the one that really stood out to me was the Illusive Man’s story. Not only did it give some background on the character, it took place during a pretty untouched time. While we get info on the First Contact War in the games, we really don’t see any of it there for obvious reasons. We even find out why the Illusive Man is the way he is in the games. Not only do we get info on the Illusive Man here, but we see what Saren was up to at this time as well. I actually forgot he was in the story and was pretty surprised to see him here.

I have to say that I’m pretty mixed on the artwork as a whole. I do like that it does at least get the look of Mass Effect right. The aliens looked right for the most part. The action is also pretty nice at times. That being said, there were times were things got pretty inconsistent. It’s kind of all over the board with the art. The place where I really noticed the lackluster art was really with Redemption. The others’ artwork had its issues but Redemption was the one that really got to me. There were times where folk didn’t look right during that story.
At least Aria looks okay.

I don’t have too many problems with the trades. Not all of the stories hit the mark in a couple of places. There was a part of me that was actually a little bored by some of the stories. I didn’t run into this with the short stories but I did with the four-parters. Redemption is actually my least favorite of these four. While it is an important story to the franchise, some of it just drug on at times. I also think the lackluster artwork also made it a chore to read as well. As for Evolution, there is a part of me that wishes we got more with the Illusive Man. After his stint on Palaven, the story ends and we don’t know how Cerberus came to be nor how he got to be in charge of it.

In the end, these were two fine trades. While they aren’t perfect, they filled that Mass Effect fix for me. We got to see lesser known characters get fleshed out a little bit. I know there is some more Mass Effect stuff out there, so I might check it out here if I ever get my hands on it. I do have a copy of Mass Effect: Paragon Lost on DVD. Maybe I’ll finally crack that open and see if my sometimes nemesis/ally, “Word-of-Mouth,” was right about that. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and just know that the games aren’t the only thing obsessed with folks’ butt.

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