Mass Effect, Diablo and Star Wars comic books reviewed on Free Comic Book Day


Today is Free Comic Book Day in North America—a magical day when comic book shops hand out a free comic to everyone that swings by their store. If you're reading this on Saturday, you really should swing by your local comic shop and absorb some great geek culture.

And as well-rounded geeks at PC Gamer, we share your unrestrainable urge to own awesome things and understand that you'll likely feel compelled to buy a few comic books related to video games while you're there. Here are three that I read this week and what I thought of them to help you make your picks.

Update: Dark Horse is offering their FCBD comics as digital downloads for the entire month. You can grab the Star Wars/Firefly combo book and the Buffy/The Guild combo book on their official site.

Mass Effect: Invasion #3

By Mac Walters and John Jackson Miller (writers), Omar Fancia (art), Michael Atiyeh (colors), Paul Renaud (cover)

On sale from Dark Horse for $3.50

How it ties into the game: In Mass Effect 2, Aria T'Loak is the tough Asari that rules over the asteroid-turned-crime-city Omega. In Mass Effect 3, you find her hiding in the Citadel after Cerberus has taken over Omega and run her out of town. This four-part Invasion series tells the story of how that happened, and this book in particular highlights Cerberus' ruthless tactics and Aria's commanding ability to corral the warring gangs of Omega under her.

Is it good? Aria is a great character, with a perfect gunslinger attitude for an underdog story like this. Her interactions with the Cerberus general and doctor in the lab that she's being held captive in are well-written and dig into the psychology of a Cerberus believer who's beginning to see cracks in their esteemed Illusive Man's plan. The art is sometimes a bit cluttered for my personal taste, but has a lot of detail and effectively captures the gritty sci-fi vibe. Aria's biotic powers are drawn brilliantly to showcase the powerful energy bursting through an area. I loved Aria's short role in ME2 and really enjoyed getting to see more of her character in this book, but doubt I'd be quite as interested if I hadn't played Mass Effect. Taken on its own, the story is straightforward and passable, but anyone that's played Mass Effect 2 or 3 will get much more out of the characters' encounters.

The best line: "Let me go and I'll shove your Tolstoy up your ass!" — Aria to the doctor imprisoning her

Diablo III #1: Sword of Justice

By Aaron Willions (writer), Joseph Lacroix (art and colors), Saida Abbott (letters), Dave Stewart (cover)

On sale from DC for $2.99

How it ties into the game: The book starts at the beginning of the world—well, technically, a bit before that. The first several pages explain the battle between good and evil, and Tyrael's role in creating Sanctuary, a safe world for people to live away from the constant battle between angels and demons. Of course, Sanctuary is where all the Diablo games take place and it is far from peaceful, so you know things'll go badly. From there, the story follows Jason, a new character who is on the run from his homeland in the north and on his way to finding Tyrael's lost sword, the namesake Sword of Justice.

Is it good? This book is fantastic. The art is forceful and overpowering at the right moments, and laced with subtle details that never feels overwhelming. There are at least five characters that are interesting enough to be the lead character, but careful pacing keeps them from overlapping to the detriment of the story. Plot twists are frequent as the groundwork is laid for Jason's backstory and the writers have the admirable restraint to know when it's more effective to say nothing at all. I'm not very familiar with the lore of Diablo, but I didn't need to be--this story stands on its own, with enough intriguing characters and gorgeous drawings to make it worth anyone's three bucks. One scene in particular made me stop and stare at the page, eagerly absorbing all the detail of a massive barbarian chief, foot on his victim's chest with crazed eyes and axe ready to swing. Warning: you'll want to immediately read the other four books in the series, but only two others are out yet.

The best line: "I am the heir of the constable of Staalbreak, and this... this man is under my protection! His life is not yours to take, barbarian." — Jason as a child to a hulking barbarian chief about to kill his best friend

Star Wars: Jedi Volume 1—The Dark Side

By Scott Allie (writer), Mahmud Asrar (art), Paul Mounts (color), Stéphane Roux (cover)

On sale from Dark Horse for $18.99

How it ties into the game: Set 53 years before the battle of Yavin (Episode IV), and 21 years before Episode 1, the books bundled into this paperback compilation are chronologically closest to the Episode 1 movie tie-in game that I never played (and was probably pretty terrible). More important, however, is that it features Qui Gonn Jinn and revolves around a civil war on Telos IV—that nice planet where you were stripped of your possessions and imprisoned in Knights of the Old Republic II. While there, you chose to either side with the Ithorians or the Czerka corporation and battle your way to the hidden Jedi temple in the snow. The Ithorians are still around and references are made to the troubled past that you played through. Yoda also makes several appearances.

Is it good? The longer length of this compilation (118 pages) lets it tell a complete story arc, centering on the struggles of Qui Gonn and his young padawan, Xanatos, son of the king of Telos. I had fun unraveling the mystery of the insurgency alongside the main characters and the world is painted with beautiful strokes and strong colors to make the shadows linger and the action pop. The large-scale combat scenes are filled with multiple points of action and drag your eye around wonderfully. The intimate scenes between a frustrated father and a bitter son are emphasized just as well. The main storyline is a bit predictable, but there were a lot of smaller reveals along the way that I didn't see coming at all. Its story captures that irrestible lure of Star Wars: a very human protagonist struggling to make sense of a dangerous world with alien species and odd customs that's prone to bouts of violence and entertaining explosions. The ending has a satisfying ending, and primes for an even more dramatic follow-up that I'm excited to read. And as an added bonus, the back of the book has an image of what appears to be Qui Gonn Jinn tearing off his own face.

The best line: "You Jedi train in order to conquer your emotions, don't you? I'll need a moment alone to marvel at the result of 13 years' work ." — Xanatos' father to Qui Gonn after Xanatos mocks him.