“Fundamental Comics,” a monthly editorial series that introduces readers to comics, graphic novels, and manga that have been impactful to the sequential art medium and the comic book industry on a foundational level. Each month, a new essay will examine a familiar or lesser-known title through an in-depth analysis, exploring the history of the title, significant themes, and context for the title’s popularity since it was first released.
The video game Horizon: Zero Dawn is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where humanity survives by hunting and scavenging from machines. The megafauna of our world are replaced by robotic counterparts, with creatures ranging from horse-analogues to mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex. The world’s origins are gradually meted out as the player delves further and further into the story, and the player as Aloy discovers more about the apocalypse that changed the planet.
The Defenders, the new ensemble Marvel Netflix project, has drawn together four character franchises to create a new super-team. Unlike Marvel’s other team, the larger-than-life Avengers, the Defenders are centered in New York and address a conspiracy of a dangerous organization that appears motivated by personal, individual drives rather than a larger goal of conquest. Despite its narrative problems, continuing the White Saviour complex and dualism of Orientalism and “Fear the Yellow Menace” that Daredevil and Iron Fist first articulate, the visual forms are intricate and interesting. The series uses tonal cues and shot composition to reference the visual style of each of the individual characters’ series. The visual framing keeps each character distinct in the larger team, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and keeping the story set through different perspectives.
Mass Effect: Andromeda has sought to recapture the novelty and possibility of the original Mass Effect by taking the franchise to a totally new galaxy. The design elements, the characters, the player input, and the visual cuing all try to build the sense of discovery.
Note: Limited description of gameplay past Chapter 1 (Mia) to minimize spoilers for characters and game-events.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, 25 games after the original Resident Evil’s release in 1996, has returned to form. While the recent Resident Evil games have played on ideas of action and shooter-based horror, Resident Evil 7 is once again focused on the original genre of Resident Evil: survival horror.
Rocksteady Games and Warner Bros. Games, in their Batman Arkham series, have taken iconic characters and translated them into a rich, playable universe. Drawing on the graphic novels The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum, the game designers took a snapshot of the long-standing and multifaceted characters as inspiration for their in-game traits and stories.
Yet this framing of the characters in dated stories leaves something to be desired. Specifically, the presentation of desire.