Let me get this out of the way now: I’m a BioWare fanboy. Each video game they’ve released over the years has topped the last, and their RPGs are intricate and masterful in their execution. It’s their storytelling that hooks me every time. The action is great, of course, but their focus on story tickles the writer in me. So when a BioWare writer works on a comic book that ties directly into one of their games, you can bet it’s going to be a great comic.

Mass Effect: Conviction is a 10-page digital mini-comic produced exclusively for the Dark Horse Comics Digital Retailer Exclusive promotion, much like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 one-shot comic I reviewed last month. And just like that previous comic, the plot to this one is very simple, yet includes a lot of subtle detail. This one-shot is our prelude to Mass Effect 3 and introduces the reader to a new character in the franchise, James Vega. It drops some pretty significant clues as to how this third and final installment of the game will begin, and the last page had me smiling with two understated reveals.

Mass Effect 3 logoThe comic as a whole reads like a cinematic from the game, but that’s no surprise. It’s written by Mac Walters, lead writer of the wildly successful Mass Effect video game series, and it shows. Right from the first page, he establishes where this story fits into the series’ continuity and what the status quo is at this time. Walters introduces James as a man with few words, but his actions speak volumes. The fight sequence that results shows what this man is capable of, though it’s ended abruptly from a figure straight out of James’ past, Admiral Anderson. The banter between the two of them reveals more of Vega’s past, if only in bite-sized pieces, as the admiral recruits him for a very special guard duty…

If the comic reads like a cinematic, the tag team of Eduardo Francisco and Michael Atiyeh craft the storyboards of that cinematic. While the former is new to the franchise, Atiyeh has colored each of the previous Mass Effect comics with excellent attention to detail. I really like Francisco’s work on illustrating this story, from the alien races to our featured protagonist, though his treatment of the fight scene was a little spotty once James got injured taking it out to the street. Having seen head injuries up close, the cut in his hairline would have been bleeding much sooner than it was portrayed in the comic. For the most part, though, it’s not hard to follow what happened and to who, always tricky when dealing with big groups in fight scenes. Major kudos for that, Francisco!

Mass Effect: Conviction coverAll in all, I’m pretty pleased with how this mini-comic played out. It gave me plenty of information on what kind of character this James Vega is, even when there was no dialogue, and completely whet my appetite for more. However, there’s not enough here for a new reader to really get caught up to speed with the game. That’s my only real critique of these digital one-shots that Dark Horse has been releasing, they’re far too short and rely on the reader having prior knowledge of the series to fully appreciate them. You’d think promotional comics would do more to bring new readers into a series they might not otherwise pick up outside of this digital exclusive. However, if you’re already a fan of the Mass Effect series, you’re going to want to read Mass Effect: Conviction to get a quick fix until the game comes out.

To get this free digital comic, visit the Dark Horse blog for a list of participating retailers! And be sure to stay tuned to Comic Booked for more Dark Horse Comics news from the lovely Nicole Sixx!