With Dark Horse’s portfolio of Star Wars licences titles effectively providing a backbone of revenue for the publisher, it comes a no surprise to find the firm handling the tie-in to Bioware’s Lucasarts-inspired property. While Mac Walters and John Jackson Miller manage to make a reasonable fist of converting a player-driven narrative game into a linear story, the introduce some problems of their own into the mix.
The limited series follows the adventures of Liara T’Soni, a supporting character in the first game, as she investigates the abduction of Sheppard, the player figure. It’s an intelligent solution to the fact that all of Sheppard’s in-game dialogue was selected by the player, and allows the tale to be central tot eh ongoing Mass Effect universe without having to show it’s main character acting inconsistently with the memories of those who have completed the first title. Unfortunately, the writer and scripter seem to be hamstrung by the very intricacy of Bioware’s creation. This first issue takes a whistle-stop tour between the alien races, factions and power-brokers which the game introduced. Such a summary is necessary in light of the fact that the first videogame is over two years old, but leaves precious little room for an actual story. Liara spends her time racing form one gunfight to the next, with little narrative to connect them.
In the light of the need to reintroduce the Mass Effect setting, it would be possible to hope that future issues of the series would remedy the lack of plot here, but the complete lack of characterisation on show here give little cause for optimism. Bioware’s characters may have been simple cyphers, but each had some kind of hook to draw in interest, which is completely absent here. The game’s Liara was a mildly interesting paradox arising form a long-lived race, with a centurion regarding herself as still a child. There’s no such ponderings here, and the only original character to have any complexity of motivation is the anti-alien bigot introduced towards the end of the story. When a racist (species-ist?) character has the most depth of a comic’s cast, you know you’re on thin ice.