This graphic novel has had one of the more interesting journeys that I can think of in recent years. It’s a prequel to a free to play video game that was originally released in chapters digitally prior to the launch of the book and game. I’ve heard about this book for a while now so it was nice to finally have a crack at it and explore the world that created HAWKEN. As I said the graphic novel is broken up into different chapters and each chapter essentially stands alone. The entire comic is written by Jeremy Barlow (R.I.P.D. – City of the Damned) and has a different artist on each segment of the story. There is still an overall story that is being told throughout the graphic novel that follows two characters that play an integral role in shaping the world of Illal. The first is Doctor James Hawken, a scientist that continues to find his life’s work misused over and over again, but he will ultimately shape the entire world. The second is Rion Lazlo, Hawken’s best friend and the person that will unknowingly push Hawken to the edge.
The story begins with the mech suits that are shown in the game and an explanation of the world. Illal is a world that is controlled by corporations and there are three corporations controlling the entire planet. These corporations act like countries, homes and employers all in one fail swoop. Though you’re an employee and they’re corporations, you cannot simply take another job with a competitor. After our introduction to the world we’re introduced to Lazlo who is being questioned about his actions of a recent computer hacking. Lazlo tells his would be interrogator that he did it to get the company's attention. He wants to move up and he’s asked that he be allowed to recruit a friend (Hawken) from the rival company that he himself, once worked at. They give him one shot, get Hawken or get dead. Obviously he succeeds, but what neither man realizes is that they’ve begun on a journey together for the rest of their lives.
What I really enjoyed about this volume is that each chapter had a very different feel to it. Some of them were action packed, while others were thrillers and heavy on the espionage; others still were heavy on business and science. Overall it was a very interesting read as the story focused on building the world of the video game, but also on the relationship between Lazlo and Hawken. They stay on good terms for so long that it’s really interesting to see how neither man has let the business change them over the years, until one dirty secret is let out of the bag. The downward spiral from there is very quick, but it was a great chapter of the story. Barlow does a fantastic job of not only developing characters, but also the world and does a fantastic job of breaking up the chapters and keeping them interesting at the same time.
Overall the art is all pretty consistent. Even though there are nine art teams, the overall look of the book doesn’t change that much. There were a couple of artists that I enjoyed like Francisco Ruiz Velasco and Kody Chamberlain’s chapter, but really there were too many great artists on this book to not enjoy them all. I would say that all of the chapters suffered from having a lack of a Sci-Fi feel to them. I know it’s in the future on a distant planet because the story told me so, but not because the art always gave me that impression. Even still it was great to see so many artists that I recognized from previous comics, working on one anthology styled book.
What’s probably the strongest aspect of this volume is that you don’t need to be a Mech suit fan or Sci-Fi nut to appreciate the story. In reality it’s a character story filled with social commentary about our current society and that gives it a wide appeal to comic readers. I was sucked into the world big time and it definitely made me want to check out the game, but even more so it made me want to read more about the world. It leaves you feeling as if the story is actually just beginning, rather than coming to end.
Writer: Jeremy Barlow Artists: Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Alex Sanchez, Kody Chamberlain, Sid Kotian, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bagus Hutomo, Michael Gaydos, Federico Dallocchio, Nathan Fox, Christopher Moeller. Colorists: Grant Goleash, Derek Dow, Eddy Swan, Chad Fidler, Logan Faerber. Publisher: Archaia Entertainment Price: $19.95 Release Date: 3/27/13