Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.
Eve: True Stories by Daniel Way, Tomm Coker, Alejandro Aragon, Federico Dallocchoi and Daniel Warren Johnson – Dark Horse Comics 2014.
In the early hours of February 5, 2009, one man single-handedly destroyed the powerful Band of Brothers alliance and brought an end to the largest war the sci-fi universe of Eve Online had ever seen. Writer Daniel Way and artists Tomm Coker, Alejandro Aragon, Federico Dallocchoi and Daniel Warren Johnson tell a stranger-than-fiction tale inspired by actual player-driven events from the first decade of Eve Online!
Eve: True Stories is probably the worst comic I've ever read.
Maybe that's why I never see anyone talk about it.
In case you've been living under a rock for the last ten years, I'll quickly introduce the appeal of Eve Online. Most MMO games like World of Warcraft take place in what is essentially a glorified theme park. A place where you and your friends can go and experience pre-made, pre-generated stories in an unchanging world. The world of Eve, however, is almost entirely user-run. This means that all your jobs, quests, events and adventures are motivated by real people with actual in-game stakes involved.
This has led to some fascinating events over the last few years, with greed and clashing egos leading to re-drawing of borderlines and ripples through the in-game economy. For a good report of this kind of thing, I highly recommend Rock Paper Shotgun's report on the recent bloodbath.
Naturally, there's a lot about the Eve world that appeals to me, but alas, I've never had the time to invest. So I was thrilled to hear that Dark Horse was planning on adapting some of these events to the format of my chosen medium. Comics! What a great idea!
What a great idea indeed.
Right from the get go, this comic has problems. Though we cut straight to the action, no time is taken to introduce the setting. No clarification is given to the political climate or what exactly it is these factions are fighting over. Terminology and lore gets thrown about with little to no clarification. We hear talk of 'stargates' and 'modules' but never told the scope or importance of these things.
And the visuals fare no better. The space battles are cluttered, chaotic affairs. It's difficult to really tell what's going on, and while I'm sure the ships are accurate representations of how they appear in the game, there's no clear design style to clue us in to who is who. Ships clash without any real idea which side is which or what their goal is.
A Band of Brothers board meeting sequence attempts to serve as the set up for the story, but fails to really clarify anything. Is the Band a governmental body? A coalition? Are Goonswarm a rival kingdom or merely pirates? All this information is readily available online, true, but the flow of the story is ruined by how much the writers assume we already know.
Both the design and personality of the cast lacks clarity. Again, it's difficult keeping track of who is who, especially as this tale involves secret identities. After this brief set-up we're back to the space battles again, and the plot is quickly lost amongst the chaos.
This comic has such lofty ambitions. It wants to be Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and all based on REAL EVENTS! Yet it crams in all these twists and turns and double-crosses so fast that you can't take it in, that's even if you find time to care at all.
I'm never given a reason to care or question what happens to the Band of Brothers. I get no joy at watching The Mittani manipulate the players because I have no sense of what drives him. There's no satisfaction in watching Kasimar be outsmarted because I'm never given a reason to want it.
Haargoth lacks motivation as a protagonist. Kasimir's personality is all over the place. The reveal that The Mittani was watching the whole time falls flat because no time is spent investing in him. The plot trundles along weightlessly.
On top of that, each issue changes artist. While this isn't an uncommon practice for big publishers, this is the worst example of it I've seen. Keeping track of characters and factions is made all the more difficult due to several art-shifts over the course of the plot.
The writing too seems to be unclear on what tone it wants to take. One scene in particular really stuck with me when I first read it. Near the end, as Haargoth pulls off his double-cross, Kasimar, in a rage, grabs a female comms-officer by the throat and proceeds to throttle her. Her face swells, and tears run down her cheeks. In the next panel he slams her head violently onto a computer screen.
The whole scene is uncomfortable, and I have to question it's purpose. Is it to make us hate Kasimar? It it to give the reader a reason to root for Goonswarm? If it is, it's too little too late, but the decision to do that through violence against women is... troubling. I don't know if Way's work normally has any subconscious misogynist undertones, but the fact that the only other significant women in the comic are a waitress in a form fitting dress and a background sidekick leads me to wonder.
Likewise, the sexy spy-catsuit lady on the cover of the book is nowhere to be seen.
The story ends abruptly, with no epilogue or clarity on the scale of the outcome. It's a stale, sterile comic. It's grim, but with little grit behind it. It's 'real' without any sense of reality. It's probably the worst comic I've ever read.
So what happened? Dark Horse is usually competent when it comes to video game spin-offs. The whole thing smells of a rush job to me. Condensing such complex source material to three issues was the biggest mistake. Re-framing the whole thing as a rollicking space adventure rather defeats the point.
Shoving a bunch of separate artists on the job says to me that Dark Horse had no confidence in the project. Daniel Way didn't seem to have his heart in it either. It's a shame, because these Eve Online tales deserve better. Just have another read of that RPS article as your proof that these tales can be re-told in a clear and understandable way. Dark Horse should have given it the time and focus it needed.
Instead we're left with this mess. A forgotten and half remembered comic that nobody seems to have a good thing to say about, least of all me.
Jack Harvey 2016. Eve True Stories (c) 2014 Dark Horse Comics. Eve Online (c) CCP. Images used under Fair Use.