Friday, January 26, 2018

Review - Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 (@IDWPublishing)


"They deserve some recognition for their good."

Gears of War was a tour de force when it first released for the Xbox 360 in November 2006. The game pushed the limits of violence and relied on a fresh take on the cover system to offer fast combat and gameplay. The prime nemesis in the original game was RAAM, a Locust leader with an axe to grind against the COGs. In Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 from IDW Publishing, readers gain a little more insight into RAAM's thought process. The issue is written by Kurtis Wiebe, illustrated by Max Dunbar, colored by Jose Luis Rio and lettered by Gilberto Lazcano.

Years before he became the bane of humanity on Emergence Day, RAAM rose through the ranks to take leadership of the Locust Horde armies thanks to his intelligence, strength, and ruthlessness. Now, witness that swift and brutal ascent.

The Gears of War series has never shied away from violence and gore, both of which Wiebe ensures are on full display in Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1. The issue does a pretty solid job of introducing the reader to RAAM when he's pontificating on his lot in life and his aspirations to move higher, which is a stark contrast from the gun-toting and bloodthirsty RAAM in the games. Wiebe uses the issue to place emphasis on the "bad" side of the war the COGs are fighting in a way that's actually pretty refreshing and gives fans of the series a lot more insight into the bigger picture prior to Emergence Day. Wiebe humanizes RAAM in many ways that the Gears of War games don't as they always focused on the COG side of things, effectively oversimplifying the Locust into beasts with a singular focus on killing all of humanity. In order to get to that point Wiebe has to spend a lot of time focusing on the Locust way of life, telling the reader a lot about that side of the universe and offering a lot of exposition to get things set up and in place.

The Gears of War series thrives on blood and gore, neither of which seem to be lost on Dunbar. His linework does a great job of capturing the ferocity of the Locust (and RAAM in particular) as they tear their way through the Lambent. The Gears of War universe is predicated on death and destruction and Dunbar's artwork isn't shy about showing off the rampant bloodletting that often accompanies the Locusts' days in war time. And considering the games are ultra-violent, Dunbar fills the panels with an abundance of violent confrontations that feel like battles pulled straight from the games. Rio's colors are mostly yellows and reds with some greys thrown in for good measure, all of which help establish the Locust as underground dwellers.

The final fight in the original Gears of War pits the gamer against RAAM head-on and it's a fight for sure. Reading Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 gives the reader all the background they'll need to understand why that fight is so difficult and why RAAM is so fierce. Wiebe understands that a soldier's motivations are varied and does his best to give RAAM more reason to want to fight than just wanting to kill and maim. Dunbar's artwork is abundantly violent in its presentation, underscoring the conflicts that the Locust are faced with in order to survive. Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 is a great primer for an underserved character in the series who is just doing what he can to help his people survive.

Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 is available now.

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