When you here the word StarCraft, you probably think someone is mixing up Star Wars and Minecraft. If, however, you are familiar with the property, then of course you’d probably think of StarCraft the video game. What most people wouldn’t think of right off the bat though, is comic books. Dark Horse Comics is looking to change that, however, with their new four-issue mini-series, StarCraft: Scavengers.
PC players in particular are quite knowledgeable of the impact that StarCraft has had on the gaming landscape and players world round still sink hundreds of hours into this vast sci-fi world. However, even as big a fan of video games as I am, StarCraft is one of those properties that has passed me by completely. I’m not a PC player, I don’t typically care for RTS (Real Time Strategy) games, and I’m not a big Sci-Fi fan. For these reasons, I was a little hesitant to review this new comic as I was afraid I would need at least a general understanding of the universe to fully appreciate the story. Luckily, writer Jody Houser has crafted a fun and creepy story that should appeal to long-time fans as well as StarCraft virgins like me.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise from this first issue is that this is not a sprawling space opera, but rather, a small-scale, creepy trek through an abandoned space shuttle that just oozes with horror-themed atmosphere and takes more than a few cues from films like Alien and Event Horizon. The scavenger crew of a spacecraft named Magpie come across an abandoned alien craft and attempt a lucrative, but illegal drop-in to procure all the alien tech they can so that they can sell it to the highest bidder. Things, of course, do not go as planned as the crew quickly finds out that they are not alone as someone….or someTHING (ooooooooh!) begins ambushing the crew and picking them off one by one. Obviously this is a setup that we’ve seen a hundred times, but it just works really well here.
Besides the monster striking from the shadows theme, there’s also plenty of attention paid to some characterization which help the reader feel invested in the plight of the crew. Not every member is given ample page time since stories like this need plenty of cannon fodder, but we do get to spend some time with a couple of charming characters; specifically a new recruit named Caleb. He’s a rookie when it comes to the whole ‘scavenging alien tech’ stuff, but he’s eager to prove himself and he’s got a lot of potential to be an engaging protagonist going forward. His relationship with some other members of the crew are given some time to be fleshed out as well and it’s nice to see that characterization wasn’t sacrificed for the sake of telling a scary space story.
The atmosphere is beautifully captured here too. The story is a real slow burn of a horror tale and the creative team never shows their hand throughout the entirety of the first issue. Even as I reached the end of the book, I had no idea what kind of creature was picking the crew off, and I find that refreshing. Besides that, the composition of the panels worked wonders in spinning the creepy narrative from page to page. The use of subtle cues that there might be something there as well as the classic terror-filled screams coming from the other end of the walkie-talkies go a long way in invoking the classic horror elements that this genre is so revered for.
The success with the creepy ambiance is thanks in no small part to the great artwork from artist Gabriel Guzman. Besides the fact that there are a few awkward character models every once in a while, Guzman does a great job of capturing the necessary look of a terrifying, abandoned spacecraft that the story necessitates. The dynamic use of shadows is put to great effect here, showcasing the oppressive darkness of the alien craft and leaving the reader to imagine what lurks within.
Suffice to say, I was strongly and pleasantly surprised by StarCraft: Scavengers #1. While I was expecting a sci-fi heavy space story with lots of alien battles and flights through the stars, I instead got a claustrophobic, character-driven journey through an Alien inspired derelict ship full of haunted house style horrors. There is no need to be familiar with the video game franchise to gain maximum enjoyment out of this story, and that might just be writer Jody Houser’s greatest achievement. It’s a wide-open welcome mat for anyone who enjoys a good space scare and with the strong characterization coupled with some great artwork, Dark Horse comics has a winner on their hands!
- Fantastic Horror-Themed Tone
- Reminiscent of Alien
- No Need to Be Familiar With the Video Game
- Occasional Stilted Character Models