Comic books that either adapt established stories or exist within the same universe of existing properties are in a precarious space. On the one hand, there is bought-in enthusiasm from readers because they’re (more than likely) already fans of the franchise. On the other hand, though, these types of comics are usually restricted to side stories that oftentimes add little to the lore of their respective universes, or fail to bring forth any major character revelations.
Unfortunately, such is the case with Horizon Zero Dawn Vol. 1. This five-issue story is a lightning-fast, utterly unremarkable read that does very little to expand on the world established in the original game and fails to deliver an engaging story.
That may sound harsh, but it’s not like Horizon Zero Dawn is a bad comic — it’s just very bland. For a comic set in the same world as the incredible PS4 game of the same name, it’s actually a little shocking how aggressively mediocre this comic is.
Whereas the game centered around the charismatic outcast Aloy, the comic chooses to focus on Talanah Khane Padish — a character from the game whose importance to the universe is entirely dependent on whether or not the reader completed the majority of the Hunter’s Lodge side quests. When the comic first released I had just completed the game and was very excited to dive-in, but I had not done any of the Lodge side quests during my play through, so I had no clue who Talanah was.
Choosing to focus this comic on a character who is, more or less, inconsequential to the main franchise is questionable at best and frustrating at worst, and really hampered my enjoyment of this volume as a whole. She’s presented in a way that assumes readers will already know who she is and care about her experiences, thus it feels like there is little to no character building throughout this volume as it relies on a preconceived notion that the character is already established in the readers head. Talanah doesn’t emerge from her journey changed in any way, nor is anything revealed about her along the way. She’s simply there, going through the motions.
That’s actually how this whole comic feels; it’s just going through the motions. It’s so unremarkable that there’s not even anything good or bad to say about it — it simply exists. The characters aren’t insufferable, but they’re not enjoyable either. Franchise newcomer Amadis does receive a rather tragic backstory in an attempt to flesh out his character, but it’s breezed over so quickly and of such little consequence that it ends up failing to elicit any emotional investment or reaction.
The story itself feels like a one-off side quest from the game that you would be annoyed at wasting your time on because it carried no reward and no narrative value. You can easily read the entirety of this volume in about 45 minutes yet completely forget what happened 10 minutes after you finish the final page. It’s an incredibly simple story that adds almost nothing to the established universe and doesn’t earn any engagement or excitement from its readers. Talanah simply sets off to hunt down a special type of machine and, uh, successfully hunts it. That’s really the crux of the whole book, not much else to it.
The only standout moment from the entirety of this five-issue collection is when Talanah and Amadis encounter a Shellsnapper, a new machine that has only been teased for the upcoming sequel to the game, Horizon: Forbidden West. Getting a glimpse of the Shellsnapper in action will be a treat for fans anticipating the new game and provides an idea of what it will be like to face these behemoths as a player.
I wish I could say this book was at least enjoyable to look at, but not even the art manages to grab my attention. There’s no energy to the action sequences, the characters feel lifeless, and there are occasionally jarring transitions between panels and scenes. Overall, the art feels less like the successful sequential storytelling seen in other comics and more like unfinished storyboards that were colored in so they could be repurposed for a comic. Like everything else in this volume, the art is in no way bad, it’s just not good either.
Horizon Zero Dawn Vol. 1 isn’t bad enough that it should be avoided by fans of the game, but it’s definitely not enjoyable enough that I’d recommend it to, well, anyone. It’s just completely uninspired and wildly mediocre all around. If you’re an absolute die-hard fan of the game, this might be worth the price of admission and extremely quick read time. Even then, I still think you’d be better off just replaying the original game until Horizon: Forbidden West comes out.
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