The stories behind the stories

Mass Effect: Redemption #1

“I do know where Commander Shepard is. But you won’t like what I have to tell you.” — Feron

“Redemption, Part 1”

The blockbuster video game series comes to comics!
Published by Dark Horse • January 6, 2010
Written by John Jackson Miller

Story by Mac Walters

Art by Omar Francia

Lettered by Michael Heisler

Colored by Michael Atiyeh

Cover by Daryl Manrayk

Edited by Dave Marshall and Brendan Wright

In the spring of 2009, my editor on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic at Dark Horse, Dave Marshall, approached me with the opportunity to bring the Mass Effect video game universe to comics for the first time. I was well aware of Mass Effect, the hit video game by Bioware, the same folks that designed the first KOTOR video game; I liked its military SF look and feel. So I didn’t have to be convinced — and with KOTOR wrapping up and space in my schedule before other planned projects ramped up, I was able to dive in pretty quickly.

Mac Walters, the lead designer at Bioware, provided the plot for the story in “Redemption,” making it a true part of the Mass Effect universe, bridging the first game with its late January 2010 sequel. Mac and the Bioware team provided lots of background on the Mass Effect universe, as well as visuals and information from the unreleased game, for use by myself and artist Omar Francia, who had previously worked on Star Wars: Legacy.

The process for this issue was fairly new for me; while I had scripted Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull based on the movie story, all the dialogue came from the film, so I was limited to deciding which scenes to depict and how. Here, I had more discretion in my role, putting lines in the character’s mouths and determining how to bring the plot to the printed page. Mac and Bioware were working along with us the entire time, making sure everything we came up with meshed. Particular care was taken in the handling of Commander Shepard’s character; as with the KOTOR comics and Revan, the story accommodates the reader’s past decisions as a player.

The result is a Mass Effect story that’s integrated with the game universe — while also having something of a different feel from the game, novel, and cut-scene video content that’s out there. Comics share a number of storytelling techniques with other media, but there are also some unique to it. In comics, for example, the (usually) white space of the gutter between panel borders provides a pause in which any amount of time may pass; where a film or video game cut scene might show how characters or a ship get from point A to point B, comics stories are just as likely to handle transitions more abruptly, diving straight into the next sequence. (In film, the equivalent would be a lot of “smash-cuts” — as jarring as it sounds, but commonplace in comics.)

Comics — and particularly the ones of the past — are also more likely to spread dialogue across action scenes, such as while characters are running or engaged in battle. Modern comics don’t do as much of that, but the curious static-while-active dynamic does still allow comics to convey information in different places.

So the feel may be unique to comics, but it’s all Mass Effect — and as the story goes along, readers will find that there’s a lot of detail layered in that has to do with other things going on in the video game world.

“Work with us — and we might be able to bring Shepard back.” — Miranda

A five-page preview of this issue appears in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #48, also scripted by me.

Our colorist, Michael Atiyeh, had worked on the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series; our cover artist this issue did the cover for several KOTOR issues as well.

Omega appears in the Mass Effect novel, Ascension. Drew Karpyshyn‘s descriptions were greatly helpful in crafting the look of the place in this issue. Omega is essentially the flip side of the Citadel, which is seen in the first game — not a safe place to visit!

In Mass Effect writing, the various species are described in lowercase, just like humans; in comics, of course, everything’s uppercase!

The batarians first appeared in the downloadable content (DLC) “Bring Down the Sky.” They don’t think much of people with less than four eyes, as you’ll notice

The elcor are probably my favorite species from the first game; they’re so expressionless that, as Feron notes, they have to tell you the subtext while they’re talking!

Miranda, debuting here, is portrayed in the second game by Yvonne Strahovoski, who’s both the voice actor and the physical model for the character.

The Illusive Man depicted in this issue is voiced by Martin Sheen in Mass Effect 2. Now if we can only get him to an audiobook reading of his comics role here!

A variant-cover version of this issue appears in the Collector’s Edition version of Mass Effect 2, the video game from Bioware. Also by Daryl Mandryk, the cover features Feron and Liara. With a lot of copies of the video game out there, that makes this issue  one of my most heavily-circulated works to date.