Review: Horizon: Zero Dawn #1
When Horizon: Zero Dawn came out on the Playstation 4 back in 2017, I remember feeling a sense of wonder and relief. It was a post-apocalyptic game of sorts, but it wasn’t the dreary and bleak world we’d grown accustomed to as gamers post-Last of Us. Instead, Guerilla Games gave us a lush and living environment with impressive vistas and mechanical beasts that played with both prehistoric and high-tech notions of life. It made for an unforgettable gaming and storytelling experience.
Now, Titan Comics has brought the Horizon universe to the comics world and I’m happy to say the transition is not only successful but also comes off as an obvious next step for the franchise.
Written by Anne Toole, who worked on the game’s script and counts among her writing credits the Assassin’s Creed: Origins “Cursed of the Pharaohs” DLC, and illustrated by Ann Maulina (who has worked as a video game and environment artist), the new Horizon comic centers on Talanah Khane Padish and her hunt for a single machine as per a contract she accepted. Talanah gets injured, but she fights through the pain to continue in her quest even as she meets new characters that might hint at a coming conflict between tribes.
While previous knowledge of the game’s story isn’t a requirement, having at least one playthrough completed will enrich the reading experience considerably. In the game, Talanah is a potential ally for Aloy (Horizon’s main character) and is crucial to the Hunter’s Lodge missions in the story. She becomes Aloy’s sponsor in the Lodge and even helps out during the final battle of the main story.
Having that background helps readers jump straight into the comic. A familiar face is easy to get excited about and foregoes a lot of the trappings of heavy exposition commonly found in first issues. Toole does a phenomenal job in this front, keeping as much as possible up to the reader to figure out. Nothing is spelled out, but all the narrative elements are there for readers to piece together what the story’s world is about. Thankfully, new readers can also follow Talanah’s story with minimal understanding of the universe. This is where Maulina’s art comes in.
Horizon’s world is nothing short of breathtaking. The contrast between mechanical dinosaurs and human characters designed like they come from a high tech Stone Age is very unique to the PS4 game and Maulina has captured it faithfully in the comic book page. That same sense of wonder and danger that one gets while playing the game transfers over to the comic, with vibrant colors and deadly machines inhabiting a blossoming natural word. Having played the game, I felt as if the story’s energy mimicked that of the game’s. The thrill of the hunt and the adrenaline rush that comes with hunting robo-dinos is as present here as it is in the game.
Toole’s scripting, on the other hand, also finds ways to incorporate video game winks into the overall design of the story with panels showing characters doing things player can do in-game. Whether it’s Talanah throwing a rock to distract the machines or walking on a tight-rope to cross a river, these instances bring players back to the game if only briefly to link up both experiences.
Whether the Horizon comic will continue to expand upon the game’s universe or simply follow within the lines of an extended side quest remains to be seen. Aloy is a part of the story, but it feels as if Talanah’s the lead. Fortunately, Talanah is well-crafted and can help fans bridge both comic and gaming experiences into a cohesive whole. In all honesty, any excuse to venture back into the world of Horizon is good enough for me–and with Horizon 2 already confirmed for the Playstation 5–this comic does a wonderful job of giving fans enough reasons to continue the journey.
Story: Anne Toole Art: Ann Maulina
Color: Bryan Valenza Letterer: Jim Campbell
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Replay Horizon and make sure to finish the Frozen Wilds DLC
Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review