When certain mediums cross over into new territory there is always cause for concern. A comic may be brilliant on the page but lackluster on the silver screen. Vibrant characters, intense action, and intricate plots may fall flat when condensed into mere words and drawings. Or, worse yet, they may exist only as a means to exploit fans and take their money.
Sometimes, however, these types of projects align themselves in perfect sync with one another. When this happens, worlds are enhanced and fans gain new perspectives into the things they love. For the free-to-play online video game Hawken, and Archaia Entertainment’s graphic novel Hawken: Genesis, a world of video game combat is opened up with great care by writer Jeremy Barlow and a cavalcade of artists, and fans of the game—and those who have never played it—are rewarded with rich history, strong characters and a story that packed full of corporate espionage and warfare.
Hawken: Genesis opens on the planet Illal, a colony dominated by three corporate entities: the Sentium Corporation, Prosk Industries, and Crion Solutions. Corporate spy Rion Lazlo wants to advance in the Prosk hierarchy, and he attempts to do so by recruiting James Hawken, a Sentium researcher. Making the jump from one corporation to another is akin to treason in this world.
The graphic novel acts as a chronicle of these two men’s lives and their role in creating the war-torn landscape inhabiting the video game. For Barlow (along with Khang Le and Dan Jevons, who helped develop the story), this isn’t just a tie-in. His love and care for the world he’s expanding shows in every piece of fine-tuned dialogue and a plot that extends across a lifetime. If there is any complaint about the book it’s the desire for even more. Additional info is presented in archival form as digital news and emails between chapters. While reading, you can’t help but imagine the graphic novel spread out and allowed to really develop these archival items through scenes. Great opportunities to develop characters and increase tension are missed due to the compact nature of the book. But this was not the project’s intention to begin with, so in relation to its mission statement—to enhance the video game—it succeeds with flying colors. And really, is a complaint about wanting more really a negative at all?
The accompanying artwork matches Barlow’s care for the story. The visual world of Hawken: Genesis is gritty, oxidized. Each chapter brings a new artist and the constant visual changes can pull readers out of the story, but there is always enough visual continuity to remind you of what world you are in. The book brings in luminaries like Bill Sienkiewicz (perhaps best known for his work on New Mutants in the early 80s) and the artwork ranges in styles from very line driven pencils to lush paintings and even photo realistic images.
Yes, things can fall flat when they crossover into a new genre. But Hawken: Genesis avoids doing so, instead showing the potential for such expansions. The book welcomes everyone into its world, not just the gamers. And for doing so it’s hard to imagine that readers won’t want to transition over to the game when finished reading.