Chico Comics Page Review: Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Kurtis Wiebe
Illustrator: Max Dunbar
Colorist: Jose Luis Rio
Letterer: Gilberto Lazcano
Reviewer: Chris “The Bearded Wonder” Natale
When I first saw that IDW was publishing a Gears of War comic about RAAM, I was both intrigued, but also taken aback due to my impressions of the game series. I was worried that by playing the series that I wouldn’t like this comic as much. Well, I was dead wrong. This was the character development that I always thought the Locust needed when I first played the games. I always saw them as mindless drones that just kind of threw themselves into war to conquer others, utilizing their power in numbers. I really liked the way Wiebe wrote RAAM because I never really knew much about him to begin with. The only thing I knew about him was his interaction with Lieutenant Kim and he was this huge Locust that you didn’t want to f*** with. In this first issue, Wiebe and his team provide depth to the Locust, especially RAAM, who never really had any besides Queen Myrrah. RAAM is shown to be a strategic, war-battered leader who utilizes all the weapons at his disposal. He does not just give orders; rather, he is willing to get his hands dirty, which inspires his unit and other Locusts to follow him. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure RAAM barely talked in the first game, besides a few words here and there, and Myrrah always had a monologue of sorts. Ever since RAAM blocked an attack from Lieutenant Kim’s chainsaw on his lancer (how badass do you have to be to block a chainsaw coming at you?) and plunged his dagger into Lieutenant Kim’s chest, I always wondered about RAAM and how he came to be. He was this above average sized Locust wearing all black, with a special weapon you did not see any other Locust carry, and he towered over the likes of Marcus Fenix and the other Gear soldiers. Wiebe shows that RAAM is not some mindless drone who just does what he’s told. He is highly intelligent and has an agenda of his own. It’s either his way or the high way. If you tell him differently, you should know that RAAM won’t take it kindly and he will put up a fight (verbally and physically). I cannot wait to see how Wiebe and his team explore this character and I am beyond excited for the next issue.
What really sealed the deal for me on this issue was Max Dunbar’s art and Jose Luis Rio’s colors. Dunbar’s design for the Hollows, Sera, the Locusts, and the soldiers really brought me back to what I love about the world of Gears of War. Dunbar really knew how to transition the details of the game medium over to comics and I feel like sometimes that is not an easy thing to do. Before I even looked inside the comic, I noticed that I really liked Cover B and I said to myself, “I hope this what the comic art inside looks like because I would love to add this to my collection. Sure enough, I kept reading and saw that Dunbar was the artist for it (did you hear that child-like scream? No? Good. Anyway…). I think he just has a knack for drawing the Gears world and his art really immersed me into the issue. However, the art would not have been complete without Rio’s colors and Gilberto Lazcano’s lettering. Believe me, it made the issue all the more grittier and creepier (in a good way) to enjoy. I believe that these guys really get what the world is all about and I hope they stay on the series until its conclusion. I can’t say this enough (I really can’t) but I am a sucker for any extra content in the back of an issue about the creative process and the world and characters being developed in the comic. Whoever wrote the letter from a particular Locust to the readers, kudos to you because I got a laugh out of it and it made me want to write in to the column as soon as I could. Also, I thought it was a brilliant idea to include terminology used throughout the issue in case people are new to Gears of War. This was also useful to those who are familiar with the series, but did not know certain words (talking about myself here). It provided good background information and helped craft the world around the comic. For example, RAAM’s title is Vold, which if you look in the glossary on the last pages, means that he is a lieutenant and the word means “battered.” Sraak’s title is Uzil, which means he is a high general and the word means “unbroken.” For someone who went into this with low expectations, I was extremely satisfied and I cannot wait to see more. You may think I am biased because I played the games, but I had to search hard for things I did not like. It was a lot harder than I expected, which says a lot about the issue.
Overall, I loved this comic for the development that it gave RAAM and other Locust I did not even know existed and some familiar faces I did not expect to see. The art was as gritty, detailed and vulgar as I expected it to be. I loved the colors used to complement RAAM, the Lambent, different settings and other characters involved. If you have not played the Gears of War series or even if you have, I would highly recommend picking this up because it is a great addition to the Lore, especially one of the game’s more intriguing villains, RAAM.
Long ago before Emergence Day and his days as a ruthless Locust General (a race of reptilian humanoids) above ground, RAAM was a lieutenant leading his own unit, the Bloodied Vanguard, against the Lambent (creatures who were overexposed to imulsion, a highly volatile energy source) underground in the Hollows (underground chambers where the Locust live). RAAM was given strict orders by his superior, Sraak, to simply hold the line against the vile creatures. Instead, his unit obliterated them and heads to the Royal Palace so he can mince words with the Queen directly. What will become of Lieutenant RAAM? Did he make the right call or will his actions have dire consequences?
For the Bloodied Vanguard! Enter RAAM. The first game’s primary antagonist. A Locust General who follows the beat to his own drum. He is not just some mindless drone or lackey to the Queen as some of us gamers might have been lead to believe. He is much more. This comic includes more depth to his character along with new and familiar ones. The art design (colors included) does the series justice by still incorporating an overall gritty and gruesome tone. The reader is seeing the other side of the war soon to come and just how ruthless the Locust can be. The official rating by the Bearded Wonder is a full beard on the beard scale, which is a 9/10.
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