Are you as hungry as an Infected for more details about the story of Ellie before the events of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us kicks off? Well you're in luck, as Dark Horse Comics is releasing a prequel comic book series detailing the exploits of Joel's 14-year-old sidekick -- but it is any good?
So far two issues of the planned four issue mini-series based on Ellie's life before the events in the game have been released, and I'm going to take a look at them here and see if they are worth picking up.
The first two comics tell the story of Ellie's arrival at a military boarding school and how her adventurous spirit soon has her in conflict with everyone from the teachers to the pupils. Luckily, our heroine meets another free spirit named Riley and they strike up a friendship. Later, when Riley suggests a trip outside the school walls, Ellie is keen to go as she has never been outside of the safe zone. Once outside however Ellie finds out Riley has a secret agenda, which leads them first into conflict then into danger as the Fireflies attack and Riley wants to use them to help her escape from the school.
From the moment you pick up this comic you know this is no exploitative tie-in, as it's penned by Naughty Dog designer Neil Druckmann, while comic artist and writer Faith Erin Hicks also contributes to the material. You know you're in for a good read when tie-in comics feature those who know the game and its world as intimately as Druckmann and co, and The Last of Us prequel series is no exception to this rule.
Druckmann and Hicks start the comic well instantly setting the grim background to Ellie's world as she arrives at the school just in time to witnesses the execution of a citizen who is infected. Afterwards, as she turns to Joel for help who abandons her, we see Ellie's fierce independent spark of survival flicker into life and begin to burn. The writers use Ellie as our guide to this terrible state of affairs and the horrors of the world are continually bought home to the reader as they see it all through her eyes; this is done well in an especially grisly scene well drawn by Hicks when Ellie washing a car as punishment for fighting other children finds human remains stuck to its side. I really liked the fact that the whole story sticks with Ellie as this allows the plot to really build without distractions from any side characters.
The writing and art are certainly two great features of this comic, Druckmann and Hicks set the tone well balancing the grim setting with cheeky interplay between Ellie and Riley. The reader can see the world has changed for the worse but can also feel that with people like Ellie maybe things aren't so grim if you can keep your head up.
When talking about the great art my review would be remiss if I didn't mention the subtle pallet of colours Rachelle Rosenburg layers Hicks' art in. Rosenburg uses bright colours sparingly mostly in panels that depict life before the infection which serve as a great visual reminder to the reader of just how much the world has changed.
I really enjoyed The Last of Us comic and feel it's a cracking read that really adds something to the game's story, and I can't wait for the next two parts to find out just what danger awaits Ellie and Riley. If you want to get to know Ellie better before you get the game then you can get hold of the comic at the Dark Horse site here.