Rounding out our day of community written content, posem has seen taken it upon himself to review the Metal Gear Solid Omnibus Graphic Novel. Here’s what he had to say about the weighty comic.
With the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD collection looming ever prominent to those of us residing in the UK, I think it’s the perfect time for a nice look back upon the narrative that helped shape one of the most intrinsic gaming plotlines in history. Comic book style.
Back in 2004, IDW Publications distributed a comic series based upon the first Metal Gear Solid (MGS) game. Then, in 2006 and 2007, they published a follow-up series based on MGS: Sons of Liberty. Finally, in 2010 the ‘omnibus edition’ was thrown to the masses.[drop2]The Omnibus edition is made up of 552 pages, a combination of both comic adaptations. On Amazon it can cost anywhere from £60 upwards, on eBay it cost me £8 including postage. For a graphic novel this large and heavy, the postage cost me more than the book.
Let me describe the physical book to you. It is smaller than the average graphic novel size, jammed into a more compact ‘A5’ format. This doesn’t really hinder the reading experience, as the speech bubbles remain at a readable size whilst not obscuring the action in the ‘comic format’ boxes.
The sheer size of the book, remember this is A5 size with 552 pages, does become a bit of an issue. Your wrists will certainly inform you that you’ve been holding it after a short while and a pleasurable experience soon turns into an aching one. You also find yourself trying to get a good grip on the book but somehow end up covering half the page with your hand, so there really seems to be no easy way to read the graphic novel aside from laying down on a surface.
The book itself is a brilliant read for previous fans of the franchise. Those who know Metal Gear Solid will easily fall back into its enrapturing plot, whilst newcomers to the Omnibus may found themselves floundering by the side of the road (as seems to be the norm with MGS) if they’re looking for something to easily slip into. It’s a commitment although to be honest I think the MGS franchise as a whole is a commitment.
The art is by Ashley Wood, who readers may know as the artist who hand-drew the cut scenes in MGS: Portable Ops and MGS: Peace Walker. Those familiar with Wood’s style will find themselves at ease and relaxed amongst the pages of art, his way of drawing being a stylized, monochromatic and somewhat abstract take upon forming a picture.
There are points where it all becomes a bit too abstract and it gets tricky to work out just what’s going on. Previous fans should be able to work their way through these sections based prior knowledge of the games, but newcomers may well find themselves bewildered as to how the mess of sketches and lines on the page form a coherent image.
The plotline, on the other hand, is true to the source material. So true in fact that almost everything is included aside from one or two codec conversations from the game which told you about things like what button to press.[drop]There are however, changes in the way the narrative is presented to the audience. Most of the changes are in the second half of the graphic novel, when things move on to the story of MGS2. Most scenes that feature Raiden are now substituted for Snake, which many fans would probably applaud (and wish that it had happened in the actual game), and one or two characters are missing. However, they are minor characters and the cast of MGS is so wide that they are easily overlooked and unmissed, with their few short lines being given to someone else.
The use of the ‘codec’ in the book is now combined with actual scenes and action instead of merely a blank page, the dialogue from different characters presented through different colouring around the speech. This is an easy way of attributing each speech bubble to each character and also easy for the audience to follow. I found this a very nice and relaxed way of using the codec speeches, without removing them from the book altogether or having a laborious effort with hundreds of blank sheets and a graphic novel that’s over 2000 pages.
One thing I was disappointed about is the lack of the fourth wall breaking that occasionally appears in the Metal Gear Solid games. I would have been very happy if at least once Solidus demanded that we ‘CLOSE THIS BOOK NOW’ before pretending that he has no clue why he just uttered that sentence, with the other characters around him in bewilderment. Minor details like that are key to the MGS series and would have been applauded for appearing in the graphic novel.
The book itself is a very good way of experiencing and appreciating the Metal Gear Solid storyline without having to play the games (though why you would want to do this is beyond me). The artwork of Wood, though having downfalls on occasion, somehow fits the style and genre of Metal Gear.
Fans of Metal Gear Solid will find this omnibus and the reading experience a real treat, whilst people who haven’t experienced MGS before can find it a daunting and arduous task, but stick with it. It’s a wonderful read and can be picked up pretty cheap if you know where to look online. It’s worth it, trust me.