Review - Hawken: Melee #1

"Twenty seconds. Just got to keep alive for twenty seconds."

Warfare is not pleasant. That unpleasantness only gets exacerbated when mechs enter into the equation, mainly because it's one-on-one battles that pits one soldier's wits against that of another. Hawken is a video game that offers up a world rife with mechs fighting one another and BOOM! Studios/Archaia Black Label are content to tell stories of that world in Hawken: Melee #1. The issue is written by Dan Abnett, illustrated by Federico Dallocchio, colored by Chris Northrop and lettered by Julia Fung.

Draden Lusk has proven to be a more than capable mech pilot. In fact, as Nardine, he's earned a commendation for 15 unassisted kills. Like any young, brash soldier though, life has a way of catching up to him, as he's currently in the midst of a rather sticky situation. That situation includes multiple enemy mechs bearing down on him and twenty seconds until he gets the support he needs to survive.

Normally, an overabundance of self-narration slows the momentum of a comic, but Abnett uses it to great effect here. The issue takes place over the span of twenty seconds, as Nardine fights for his life against seemingly insurmountable odds while waiting for an evacuation option. Having Nadine chronicle the fight literally second by second is very powerful and offers a time lapse view of an event that can be over in less than a minute. The play-by-play also serves to showcase how talented Nadine is as a pilot; not to mention how lucky. Both traits are crucial to any combat and Abnett does a great job of conveying that to the reader.

Dallocchio's art is gritty and mostly done from a rather distant perspective. Mechs are illustrated with thin, black lines and little attention to the sophisticated machinery that powers them. In fact, the mechs looks extremely clunky and ungraceful, a sharp contrast to the more organic looks at Nadine. The shots of Nadine in the cockpit make more of an impression, primarily because they help the reader to feel the jostle of mech combat. There are a few varied panel layouts, including some insets and vertical panels, but by and large Dallocchio sticks with the standard format. Northrop's color palette lives in reds and oranges, perfectly synonymous with explosions and gunfire.

Hawken: Melee #1 is a pretty harsh reminder that even mech warfare is dangerous and requires skill and luck. Nadine pulls off a series of intricate maneuvers that any soldier would be thankful to have successfully pulled off, giving him hope of survival in a hostile situation. Abnett chronicles the brief skirmish with harrowing detail and from Nadine's perspective, accompanied by Dallocchio's art that contrasts mech and human. It's a good combination that delves deeper into the Hawken franchise.

Hawken: Melee #1 is in stores December with interiors below.