Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories
Publisher: Dark Horse
Artists: Michael Avon Oeming, Various
Before I even get into the three stories in this book, I want to talk about the presentation of this collection. Aside from being one of the better looking hardcovers on my shelf right now, this book is freakin’ massive! Not only is the size impressive, but you get a great looking front and back cover. Both are just excellent in their simplicity. So whoever designed this needs to get extra kudos for snatching the eyes out of anyone’s head when they see this on the shelf.
Now that I’ve gushed over the outside of the book, let’s get to what you really want to know about, and that’s if this pretty package has some substance to it. Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories contains stories from three of Valve’s hottest video games: Team Fortress, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. The book begins with the Left 4 Dead webcomic we covered last year that focused on the downloadable content for the game titled The Sacrifice. This bridges the gap between the last chapter of the game and how it led up to the events you play during The Sacrifice. As amazing as the story read while on my computer screen, it was a much better read as I turned each massive glossy page containing Oeming’s artwork. Bill, Louis, Francis, and Zoey never looked so good blowing the heads and various appendages off of zombies while running for their lives. There’s also the added fact that you finally get some background on the characters since the game doesn’t provide much in the way of back story.
The next installment comes from the Team Fortress side of things, and it delivers several short stories that reflect the game’s personality quite well. Aside from the amazing freats of Saxton Hale, the C.E.O. of Mann Co., we also get a peek into how the rivalry between the red and blue teams began. However, my favorite part ties into the series of video interviews that spotlighted each class, which is where we were first given a look into who the characters are. Here we get to see the motive behind them and the hilarity that ensues. Now, I’m not sure if this is the first time she’s been revealed, but I was glad to see that a face was put to that nagging voice that’s constantly giving updates throughout the matches in the game. The art is just as fun and fits the tone perfectly, even though it switches constantly between stories. The Saxton Hale episodes do have a consistent theme to them as they reflect the early days of comics, complete with that newsprint look. The only thing that was a bit off putting was when the story would just end with the hopes of continuing later, but nothing ever comes of it.
Finally we come to the Portal, story which takes place between the first and second game. This is the darker of the three, because the game itself is such a mind$#@k that it’s only right that the story and art reflect that as well. We get to see the events that took place after the first game from the point of view from the one and only Doug Rattmann and his companion cube. Several flashbacks give us the days of a younger Rattmann before the artificial intelligence known as GLaDOS locked down and flooded the Enrichment Center with neurotoxin. As time passes, he descends into madness with the help of his schizophrenia, and is taunted by GLaDOS. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that he’s got his reasons for putting Chell back in stasis and leave it at that. Again, it’s another great story where the art totally syncs up with the story and just delivers on all levels for the fans.
Dare I say that this is the perfect video game to comic adaptation on the shelves today, and you would be hard pressed to find a better one. As comic and video game fans usually know, it’s not always a good idea to combine the two. Valve puts those doubts to rest and brings the great storytelling of their games to these pages, and just builds on what made them work so well in the first place. If you have spent time playing any of these games, then this book should be appearing on your shelf sometime soon. Now, if you’ve never had the opportunity to play any of these, then I’d advise you pick this up anyway, if just for the awesome design of the book and the great quality of artwork and stories in these pages. Just remember: The cake is a lie!