Back in early August, I had the pleasure of reviewing issue one of Titan’s new Horizon Zero Dawn comic book series. The opening chapter of this series was a joy to break into, and this newly-released volume combines the entire four-issue run along with the Free Comic Book Week release, as well as wealth of additional content that makes it an absolute steal for its $16.99/£13.99 RRP.
However, before I continue, I’d like to take a moment to remind people that this and any other titles I recommend should be bought from your local comic book shop if possible. The local comic store industry really needs our help, now more than ever.
Publisher: Titan Comics
Writer: Anne Toole
Artist: Ann Maulina
Colours: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 25th November 2020
So, following on from my prior review we have four more issues of content and the aforementioned bonus features to dissect. From the foreword we are given a solid view of the mindset of the creative team. Game directors Jan-Bart van Beek, Angie Smets and Michiel van der Leeuw are quoted saying “From the beginning, we knew we didn’t want the first Horizon Zero Dawn comic book to be a by-the-numbers adaptation of the video game. Horizon fans are a curious and creative lot so we felt that it was more important to explore the world and the characters we’d introduced.” For my money this is a fantastic stance to take as far too many creators end up looking for a cheeky cash grab knowing a lot of fans will buy just about anything featuring their favourite franchises.
The volume is beautifully presented with a gallery of covers and variants from each of the included issues. The ‘how to’ guide for hunting style of breakdown helps the reader get acquainted very quickly to the level of threat and skill involved in each and every hunt. With such a high level of detail taking place outside of the story itself, it allows writer Anne Toole to focus on Talanah and her more personal arc. A skilled hunter in her own right, Talanah is the B character of the main game story, but the main focus of these five issues. With a core structure to her personality already established well in the games, we now have a clear path for expansion.
Issue one introduced us to the Sawtooth and its downfall at the hands of Alloy and Talanah. Looking back, it was a very quick read almost purely designed to introduce us to a mechanical variant the Sawtooth and the hunting natures associated with it and to promote interactions for Talanah in future panels. While I don’t want to give the whole story away, the nature of each beast is core to the story as a whole. The major threat is all based on the predatory nature of a new variant of creature known as the ‘Dark Armoured’. Long story short, displays of aggression grows into further aggression and the new rank of beasts attract some unwanted attention.
Amadis was introduced in the early going by tending Talanah’s wounds from the opening Sawtooh hunt. Due to the immense and rising threat of the common plasteel mechanic beasts and the new Dark Armoured threat, the two partner up. Much of the dialogue between them helps to strengthen our understanding of their personalities. The well spirited Talanah is portrayed as strong hearted and has real sass. Our first look at Amadis shows him to be more reserved, allowing for lots of room for development for them both.
Through a nice blend of quips and heartfelt dialogue, a romance is teased, but subtly done so it’s doesn’t suffocate the story as a whole. Their hunting and tracking methodologies are often opposed but both show their effectiveness. Each of the more intimate moments between Talana and Amadis have superbly defined facial expressions courtesy of artist Ann Maulina, which helps to strengthen each response building to our understanding of their growing relationship.
Amadis is a character that really benefits from some additional narrative attention. The local tribesmen have taken issue with Amadis and the personal history between them builds mystery a real mystery surrounding his character. Using flashbacks to patch holes in Amadis’ personality maintains the up-tempo hunt and survival pacing while allowing us to become invested in him personally. Without this, him being harmed would give no payoff. I’m certainly not saying he should or is harmed in this story, but I definitely now care if he is. He isn’t just another tribesman thrown to the fodder, he is a character I want to live and follow closely.
Unfortunately for my review, but a future thrill for the reader, anything else I could say would definitely be delving into spoiler territory. Having said that, we do need to address the future for Horizon Zero Dawn in both games and other published media. The Collector’s Guide from the game ties in some potential details regarding the Dark Armoured beast. This comic collection suggests that the ‘mystery’ of the Dark Armoured is straightforward, but no easy issue for the humans.
The Collectors Guide explains that any type of machine that reaches a body count high enough will be permanently improved and produced in greater quantity. Is this where the Dark Armour upgrade comes from? All we know is the Dark Armoured is more threatening, shows more hostility towards those who hunt and that there is a variant for each of the species. The final issue of this series also introduces us to a machine that was introduced in the trailer for the new game Horizon Zero Dawn: Forbidden West. For those excited for the upcoming game, this is a must read, and for those excited in the potential of more comics, the final issue leaves plenty to encourage further reading.
Ultimately, this is a very human story. In a world of mechanised menace, writer Anne Toole really focuses on highlighting what these people are all fighting for. Showing the true horror of the machines is one thing, but giving us reasons to care about each and every person keeps me invested. I have to liken this to Avatar The Last Airbender in that respect. The war of each of the nations makes for fantastic viewing, but every viewer was invested in the personalities developed in every episode. This is the same feeling Amadis and Talana elicits in me. I want to watch them both grow and survive, but most of all I never want them to be drowned out by the overworld.
Keeping the comic cast to a supporting character from the game and a brand new character allows new readers to sink their teeth in without ever feeling out of their depth. For game fans, there is a wealth of human backstory and culture being unpacked, while also adding to the potential future game content. If you want to stay on top of everything Horizon Zero Dawn and ensure that you’re fully prepared for the new game, you should not overlook these comics. The origins of the Dark Armoured, Amadis and Talana will be continued in the upcoming volume two and I for one will be diving in.