REVIEW: Horizon Zero Dawn Volume 1: The SunHawk

Horizon Zero Dawn is. by some distance, one of the best video games of the century to date. Set after the world has ended and rebuilt, it’s an intensely complex and deeply moving science fiction narrative that, had next year’s Best Game Hugo been rolled out earlier, would have been the game to beat.

A lot of that is down to the delightful central loop, perfectly summed up by John Oliver, who like myself, is waiting with baited breath for the upcoming sequel/. As he put it|:

'I want to murder robotic dinosaurs with a bow and arrow and I WANT TO DO IT NOW!'

Me too little buddy. Me too. But the rest is down to the rich and complex world. A world this comic explors perfectly.

Anne Toole’s script does the near impossible thing of balancing info dumps about this ridiculously rich world with a crowd pleasing cameo by Aloy herself from the game, hints of what’s to come and a plot that works in it’s own right. She does this by focusing in on one of the most interesting NPCs in the original game, Talanah. A noble woman who lost her entire family to the despotic previous ruler of her city, you spend a good chunk of the game helping her reach the rank of Sunhawk, chief of her city’s hunting lodge. If you’re a gamer looking for a working comparison, she’s basically a specialized misthios, similar to Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. If you’re a comic fan looking for a working comparison. think any superhero who keeps office hours and bills for travel.

Talanah is a great choice because she’s wry, determined, no one’s victim and has a lot of baggage. She also has a wonderful inner dialogue, as you see here. Also, this is where the book absolutely excels artistically. Ann Maulina’s art is fantastic throughout, whether in quiet character moments or kicking murderous robot dinosaurs off cliffs, but it’s in the individuals that it truly shines. These people feel real; ecstatic, terrified, exhausted, grumpy. A thousand different shards of human emotion all brought to the same vital, in every sense, life they are in the game. And none more so than Talanah.

Pragmatic, calm, flashy and brutal she’s looking for the good fight and finds it here, even if it is much more complex than she thinks. What she discovers is soaked in Bryan Valenza’s colors, which do an excellent job of showing how rich, vibrant and profoundly strange this world is. And HZD’s world is beautiful, brutal and terrifying as Jim Campbell’s letters help drive home here.

This sort of up close and personal danger is what these games excel at and this early encounter between Talanah and a Clawstrider (From the new game! Hang in there, John!) tells you everything you need to know about the way the comic handles action. Like the game, it’s frequent, brutal and RIGHT THERE. Talanah doesn’t even have the tiny advantage of Aloy’s technology. She really just has her skill, her spirit and scavenged pieces of tech. Talanah is a woman alone, doing her best against overwhelming ofdds.

. Unexpectedly, it turns out to be enough,

Toole’s story takes in illegal hunting, new animals, old purposes and old wounds. It includes a blisteringly smart (And hot ) male lead, some new animals from the next game, a lot of action and even more moments like this. They all work, they’re all necessary and they all tell two stories The one we’re reading and the one that will lead to the new game. Neither is underserved, both impress and no one gets left behind.

That’s the core of the games and the core of this comic; that you need other people. Sometimes, as with Aloy you need those other people to inspire at a distance. Sometimes as with Talanah, you need those other people to trust you to get out of the way. Faith and traditions, rivalry and love and violence and death all collide on the plains of this new world and on the pages of this exemplary tie in comic. If you loved the game, you need this. if you haven’t played it yet, I honestly envy you. And you need this.

 

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Sunhawk is out now. You can find it in these locations:

US https://amzn.to/2UUeAfg
UK https://bit.ly/3nOdVIH
Digital https://bit.ly/37MCuB3

Alternately, try this to find your local comic shop. Or here to support indie bookshops.