Crazy Is The Best Way To Go: Thoughts On Mass Effect–Foundation, Vol. 1

It’d be nice and tidy to suggest that Mass Effect‘s infamously unsatisfying ending in 2012 is what has caused the ever-flowing torrent of additional storylines in the form of books, comics, and multi-limbed fanfiction erotica.  However, like other science fiction franchises before it, the staying power of Mass Effect comes directly from its characters, its intrigues, and the massive universe that they all play out in.

Mass Effect: Foundation is the first non-miniseries entry into the comic book fold, taking place at various points before the final events of one of the biggest sci-fi franchises seen in years.  Volume 1 collects the first four issues, which began in July of 2013.  The story is penned by Mac Walters, author of Mass Effect 2 and 3, and follows a cunning operative as she targets three of Commander Shepherd’s teammates.  With serviceable artwork by Tony Parker and Omar Francia, Mass Effect: Foundation could act as a complementary dish to the massive feast that Bioware’s favorite space opera brings to the table.  As it stands, however, the first volume feels disjointed and pointlessly vague.

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Mass Effect: Foundation absolutely plants you back in that grandiose futuristic universe that any veteran gamer would be familiar with.  The world is just as you remember it: that is, if you remember it at all.  This series is definitely not for people taking their first steps into the ME world.   For people familiar with Commander Shepherd and his diverse crowd of followers, however, it’s an entertaining enough read.  But I had trouble keeping up with all the jumping from one character to another that this volume did, so I can’t imagine it would be a treat for those new to Mass Effect.

The aforementioned jumping around was immensely distracting.  The plotline follows an assassin as she tracks and mingles with three of Shepherd’s best known companions: Wrex, Ashley Williams, and Kaiden Alenko.  The whole thing feels like an excuse to play with these much-loved characters–to get a deeper insight into their motivations.  It’s a great idea that doesn’t get to fully shine in these four issues.  Instead, we get some pretty basic background noise–the usual dead friends and “talented but unruly student” schtick that we’ve seen a million times before.  The only exception to this is Wrex, who instead gets a generous chunk of time to crack some skulls, talk some trash, and destroy some infrastructure.  He was my favorite part of the original Mass Effect trilogy, and he remains my favorite part of Foundation.

Overall, a pretty humble start for such a grandiose franchise.  The artwork is decent, and the writing is a lot of fun.  But the structure of the narrative is jarringly paced and oddly disconnected.  And while the series may be a little too wink-wink to be fully enjoyed by those who haven’t played any of the Mass Effect video games, veterans of the series could get some enjoyable reading out of this.

Mass Effect: Foundation, Volume 1 was written by Mac Walters and illustrated by Tony Parker and Omar Franica, with colors by Michael Atiyeh.  It was published by Dark Horse Comics on February 18th, 2014, and is available on Amazon for both paperback and Kindle.

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