Friday, 15 April 2016

Dead Space: Salvage (OGN)

"I swear, If I make it out of this, I am blowing the goddamn whistle" - Schneider

Haven't done a videogame tie-in for a while now, truthfully finding ones worth spending money on is getting harder, but if you ignore the franchise destroying game Dead Space 3, the Dead Space stories usually delivers for me.  I covered the prequel comic to the first Dead Space game here, and this comic takes place immediately after the first game.  For a quick reminder of the plot of the main series I'll just recycle a little from my intro to the last comic: Dead Space (the first game) saw you as a space engineer called Isaac Clarke, whose ship is damaged after it receives a distress call from the "Planet Cracker" mining ship the Ishimura. He is sent aboard to repair the Ishimura and get it moving again while both investigating the disappearence of the Ishimura's crew (and the colony on the planet below) and simultaneously fending off mutated, alien zombie creatures.  It turns out those alien zombie creatures are the crew, resurrected and deformed by an alien artefact called "The Red Marker."  This Marker is also the focus of a particularly zealous religion called Unitology who worship it as a means of bringing them together in peaceful coexistence, while it actually causes madness and death to those close by, and finally brings those dead back to life as homicidal "necromorphs".  This graphic novel like the previous trade has an interesting art style this time making use of heavily painted, photographic likenesses and floating text rather than speech bubbles.  It takes a little getting used to but helps conjure up a horrific and tense atmosphere as the team of illegal miners and scavengers called "The Magpies" and the military team sent by the Earth government race to be the first to claim the Ishimura and the Marker that they believe to still be inside it.

It starts with a nightmare.  Captain Benedict Malyech of the Magpie ship "Black Beak" is dreaming of monsters.  He is woken by his second-in-command Julia Copland who informs him they have found some asteroids with valuable mineral desposits in them.  On the Magpie ship "Hunter's Moon", Captain Jessica Li is informed of the discovery by Malyech who says he'll inform the other two ships, "The Sunset" captained by Gatura Okeke and "The Liberte" captained by Bellevin.
Li and Schneider.
Li asks her second-in-command Stefan Schneider how full the "Nest" is, he says it's at 85%, the Nest is a large ring being towed by them that when they "lay eggs" in it ie: bombs, sends out a shockwave that softens the asteroids up for the mining of their resources.

Just outside the asteroid belt is a government blockade, incoming is a ship containing Defence Secretary David Chang, he is informed that the Ishimura still hasn't been located, there is "particle inteference" and as the system has been off-limits for two hundred years they have no long range scans.  Chang says he has no classified scans either and the listening post went dark weeks before.  The man he is talking to says maybe the Ishimura has been destroyed.

Chang: "Don't even think it.  The Marker was on that ship and if I leave  without it it, some teenage punk will have his feet under my desk before I even reach earth orbit."
The Magpies at work.
Inside the asteroid belt, the four captains discuss mining the asteroids and the blockade, which they don't think they'll be able to get past with the shock-ring.  They wonder about the planet Aegis VII, which had an illegal "planet-crack" performed on it, Li think this means the government won't stick around for long after they investigate it.

Schneider: "Hopefully enough to rip CEC a new asshole.  Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys."

They then get to mining, activating the shock-ring and sending out an energy pulse.  While they work, they chat.  Bellevin says the government and CEC is full of Unitologists, so "maybe Okeke and Malyech could give them the secret handshake to let us all through the barricade."  One of them retorts that the church isn't like that, then Li tells them all to shut up. "I'm already sick of your voices" she says testily.

On board the government ship, Chang is greeted by a mysterious scar-faced individual known only as an "Oracle".  The Oracle says he is permitted to intefere in military and civilian operations when they involve their priorities of "retrieval and secrecy.  Especially secrecy".

While the miners mine, they banter with each other.  Schneider hacks the comms to display a text message on everyones screen that says "Okeke + Malyech 4 Eva".  Then some strange inteference starts showing up, they activate the shock-ring again but a huge energy backblast hits it and Bellevin's ship sending it careering off towards the blockade.
The Ishimura appears.
Li sends her two crew members in small shuttle like ships to chase it down and they grab it with tethers that slows it down long enough for Li's ship to catch up and stop it drifting any further, the crew are lost however.  Li says the shock-ring has been vaporised so time to cut their losses, then Schneider says he has identified the ship that appeared with the energy wave, it's the Ishimura.

Li tells Malyech to do a flyby of the outside, while she, Schneider and Okeke go and look inside.  They scan the ship and see it is badly damaged with quarantine in place all over it.  Malyech tells them the hull is "shot to crap" and it's only good for salvage now.  Copland says they should ransom it to the CEC or Earth government.  Malyech says that wouldn't be a good idea as most of them are criminals with open warrants, they'd just be thrown in jail.  Then he spots some odd spikes sticking out of the hull.
The mysterious spikes are spotted.
Inside the others find a right old mess.  The walls are smeared with organic matter which is 70% human.  Schneider worries that they did this with the shock-ring:

Schneider: "There's been cases before.  Bad shock-points that smear the crew all over the walls... did we kill the planet-cracker's crew?"

Li says of course not, the ship hasn't supported a crew in a very long time.  They start making for the bridge, repairing malfunctioning doors as they go.

Malyech suits up and floats out of the ship to investigate the spikes.  He realises it might have something to do with his religion then he has a vision of him kneeling by the Marker and being consumed and transformed by it.  His crew reel him back in and take samples of the spikes.
Malyech hallucinates the Marker.
The others walk through the ship assessing the damage and the possibility of salvage parts of, seemingly unconcerned about the "slaughterhouse" they are travelling through.  Schneider checks his radiation detector which he sets to verbally update him automatically when the rad-count rises.

Li asks Okeke if he thinks the ship can be repaired, or is it scrap?  Okeke says "scrap" but either way it's worth a fortune to them.  They should break it down into parts while they wait for the blockade to lift, then hire another Nest and transport the bits away in secret. Schneider wonders if the Ishimura is why there is a blockade and has a bad feeling about all this.  Li says she's not going to lose a big payday because "you're freaked out."

They go to the bridge where they'll meet up with Malyech and his crew.  On the bridge they discuss what they know.  Something mysterious is happening on the planet nearby, the Ishimura and the CEC performed an illegal planet-crack, the logs are gone due to the system failures on board.  Li wonders how this ended up killing the crew.  Then Malyech appears and shows them the spikes, Okeke immediately recognises them.

Malyech: "You're looking at pieces of a holy artifact... shards from a Marker!"

He says the goverment must be there to shut the system down and cover up the existence of the Marker like they did two hundred years ago.  Li says they can ransom these to the Unitologists for big money.  Angrily Malyech slaps her, shouting "Heathen!"
Dissension in the ranks.
Li punches him out and tells someone to find the brig and put him in it to calm down for a few hours.  Copland is angry at this and yells at her not "showing your peers some respect".  Copland accompanies the man carrying Maylech to the brig as Malyech rambles about them not understanding.  They put him in the brig and as the door closes he turns and looks at Copland oddly, then says "goodbye."

Up on the bridge, Schneider has managed to extract some of what's left of the ship's records and discovered that they pulled an entire Marker off the planet. Okeke asks if it is still aboard and Schneider says "far as I can tell - yeah."  Okeke says they can't let the government get their hands on it.  Then they are alerted to the fact Copland has stolen some of the Marker fragments and is heading towards the blockade, "the bitch is going to sell us out!"

Li says they have to repair the ship so they can get a Nest to move the Marker with.  She sends Okeke and his crew to engineering to try and repair the shock-point and leaves Schneider and the others on the bridge checking for government ships.  She is going to go and see if Malyech has come to his senses.
Copland meets the Oracles.
On board the main government ship, Copland shows the fragments to Chang who takes her to The Oracles.   He leaves her with him as she says they can make a deal, right?  While The Oracle interviews her, her source vector is traced and they pin-point roughly where she came from inside the asteroid belt. 

Chang sends a small military crew to board the Ishimura and arrest the Magpies.  The Oracle finishes speaking with Copland.  He says she did the right thing coming to him.  She asks if "I get a reward or something?"  The Oracle's ring glows and she slumps forwards dead in a pool of blood, "..or something" he says dispassionately.

Inside Malyech's mind he is speaking to "Bellevin" (one of the hallmarks of being affected by the Marker is seeing and hearing dead people).  Malyech says he needs "something to make him whole."  "Bellevin" responds, "you already have it."  And Malyech transforms into a necromorph.  Up on the bridge Venschiff suddenly attacks the others in a fit of paranoia and Schneider has to knock him out.
Malyech transforms.
They get access to more of the ships logs and discover the whole colony and ship went crazy from the Marker.  Wenbo says "so it's fucking with us, too?"  But Schneider says it's odd because the Marker isn't on the ship anymore, then he looks at the fragments and realises they might be all that's left of it.  He radios down to Li about the attack and says Malyech probably won't be getting better anytime soon and also that "something big" happened aboard the ship.

Li keeps hearing something moving near her but can't see what it is.  She says they probably have about an hour before the government get there, so if they can't repair before then, they should make themselves scarce.  Then the being that was Malyech spears her through the chest with his long knife like appendages, as Schneider desperately calls her name over the comm-link.

The others decide to go and find her.  They open the bridge door and are faced with shreiking knife-tentacled death.  All but Schneider is killed by the necromorphs as he manges to fend them off him for now.  He calls Okeke and tells him to take his crew and evacuate, but the necromorphs kill them as well, only Schneider is left out of all the Magpies.
Schneider is all that's left.
Two Oracles arrive secretly onto the ship, having flown in on a stealth ship.  They aren't fazed by what they see and think that reanimation having begun will make their mysterious "job" easier.  The military crew approach the Ishimura and hail Schneider telling the Magpies to surrender.  Schneider says he knows they are after the Marker, so if they allow them to keep the ship for salvage they can have it.  Would they like to meet in the cargo to discuss it?  The military agree and pilot the ship into the bay.

The Oracles realise Schneider spoofed his transmission and is actually on the bridge.  They decide not to inform the military of this, their deaths will buy them time to reach the bridge themselves.  The soldiers disembark and scan for the Marker.  When they realise it and no one is there, they are attacked by a huge number of necromorphs.
The military are surprised by the necromorphs.
Schneider is busy killing some himself when quarantine kicks in and his little radiation detector informs him verbally of the rise in the rad-count.  Schneider then sees the Oracles approaching and their stealth ship on the monitors. As the last of the military is killed, the Oracles think that Schneider can tell them where the Marker is. 

They arrive on the bridge and can't find him, but they find more of the Marker fragments that pretty much tell them the Marker had been destroyed.  They change their priorities to finding Schneider to prevent him going public with what he knows.  Schneider has escaped the bridge quarantine by putting on an mining exo-suit and going outside the ship.

However necromorphs can survive a vacuum, and the Oracles are in hot pursuit.  Suddenly a huge necromorph rises up in front of him, but the Oracles gun it down.  "Guess they want me alive for now" thinks Schneider and he uses a hatch to go back inside the ship and heads for the shuttlebay.  Unfortunately the Oracles know the layout better than him and cut him off and they confront each other.
Schneider and the Oracles meet.
Schneider holds up his radiation detector and bluffs that he has remote piloted the shock-ring into the Ishimura's engine bay and set it for maximum blast radius.  The Oracles say he doesn't have the balls.  Schneider responds that his crew is all dead, the Marker is in bits and if they don't kill him he'll rot in jail for the rest of his life.  he literally has nothing left to lose.  He wonders why they are chasing him, not killing him.

Oracle: "We need to know what you know.  What you saw."

Schneider: "You could have just asked".

Oracle: "You don't possess the language to tell us."

Schneider says the monsters are part of it, it makes people crazy and turns them into space zombies.  The Oracle says the monsters are an unimportant side effect.  The other one says the knowledge Schneider has now, "is worth a fortune".

Schneider tries to barter the Marker fragments for his freedom when his radiation monitor pipes up about the increased rad-count and reveals his bluff.  He darts through a hatchway and shuts it on the outstretched arm of one of the Oracles severing it.  The necromorphs close in on the Oracles, "too many.  We are screwed" one of them says.
Serves you right Oracles!
Slumped on the other side is Schneider who think the same.  Then he notices the severed arm's hand is hold a gun so he uses it and fights his way to the stealth ship and pilots it out of the Ishimura.

He hails the blockade and David Chang is put through to him.  He gives him the co-ordinates to the Ishimura, "as far as I am concerned you are welcome to it."  Chang demands he stop and await an escort, but Schneider says no one has authority over him.  The stealth ship is "pretty cool" and has a small shock-point engine.  He wishes Chang luck with the Ishimura, "you'll need it" and he blasts away at uncatchable speed.  The end.
Schneider escapes in the stolen ship.
So overall this was pretty good as a piece of world building for the Dead Space universe.  Elements such as the Magpies and the Oracles haven't shown up in the games, but fit in well enough with what we know about the mythology around the Markers, the necromorphs and the government's covert attempts suppress the Unitology religion.  While Anthony Johnston's writing doesn't set things on fire, he does a good job showing how greed can lead to disastrous consequences and makes lead character Schneider likeably cynical and intelligent.  Christopher Shy's art won't be every one's cup of tea but for me I thought it had the real quality of nightmare to it, filling the ship with dank shadows to hide unspeakable horrors which is just like the first game.  If you're not madly into Dead Space then give this a miss.  But as a piece of expanded universe fiction it's of high quality by the standards of the genre and well worth a look if you have a deep interest in the franchise like I do.


  1. wow the art really does remind me of the first game, realy cool! dead space 3 made me mad, horror games shouldn;t have co-op, feck you EA!! but dead space 4 needs to happen, just hope they retcon that dopey ending to 3.

  2. Oh man did the co-op thing in Dead Space 3 piss me off and a non Xbox Live-er because it locked me out of SO MANY ACHIEVEMENTS. COnsidering I loved DS2 enough to get every cheevo bar the Hardcore one (which I will try for one day) it was a huge let-down. I need to replay it though because after what seemed like a 1000 hours of opening doors I was tired when the ending rolled round and it was something, something killer moons, cliffhanger. I was left confused. I shall put a replay of it on my to-do list anyway. I'm just sorry the death of the gaming franchise has killed it's EU, the three comicbooks and two novels are pretty damn good. Ah well, end rant lol.

  3. omg lol the whole brethren moon reveal had me facepalming like Captain Picard. DOn't replay the game, save your sanity!

  4. Oh dear, maybe my mind developed selective amnesia then to try and keep me feeling good about the franchise. I will replay though, there are still a few achievements I can get in single player, but it's been backburnered for now.