The language of Dead Space: Liberation

The trilogy of Dead Space graphic novels is complete alongside the trilogy of games.

The quick way of looking at Dead Space is that it’s a zombie story set on a space ship (and later, a space station) but that simple description belies the deep world-building and backstory outside the framework of the narrative of the games.

The place where this extended canon is most obvious is in the graphic novels. Each covers the story of the Necromorph invasion parallel but removed from the games. The first, called simply Dead Space, saw the beginnings of the attack on Aegis VII, where the Necromorph outbreak began, from the point of view of one of the colony’s security officers. The second, Dead Space: Salvage sees a private, illegal, salvage operation fighting with a secret government organization for the salvage of the Ishimura, long after Isaac Clarke, the protagonist of the games, has left it behind to float derelict.

The third book, Dead Space: Liberation follows a Sergeant in the Earthgov forces as he helps a small force find and destroy an artifact important to the Church of Unitology, a transport ring that can hurl a ship toward a location that holds secrets the nature of which even the Unitologists themselves don’t understand. This is the first book in which it’s clear that the characters are aware of Clarke – though he does not appear in the novel – and so ties most closely in with the games themselves.

Christopher Shy, the illustrator from the second book returns for this one, but the author from the first two, Anthony Johnston, has been replaced by Ian Edington. The writing doesn’t seem to change much. If anything it is a bit more emotional a story than the first two, but this is also partly the subject matter, as the protagonist is fighting for much higher stakes, and a more noble cause, than the previous books.

The art however is not really to my taste. Shy is a talented artist, but his style of heavily doctored photographs and vague backgrounds, is not one that I think lends itself well to this kind of story. It’s great for psychological studies or drug-addled trips, but not for visceral horror. The more traditional illustrations by Ben Templesmith in the first book are more appropriate, and help tell the story more clearly.

Of course, for any fan of the series, the most important function of the tie-in is that it expands upon the story we already know from the source material, and that this book does well, and triumphantly. The characters we’re introduced to here are quickly and expertly fleshed out, and their fight is made to be a stirring one. Much of the character development is a bit rushed, of course, due to the length of the format, but much is done with the space they have.

The book also has a ‘gallery’ at the back of the volume, which showcases some of the concept art for the book, and a few of the more impressive panels with the text removed, so that it can be seen in total. Along with Liberation Titan Books has rereleased the first two books, and added on galleries to them as well. All three are available now.