Dark Horse’s new hardcover collection, Overwatch: Anthology Volume 1, includes a dozen short comics featuring the cast of Blizzard’s hit game. Most of the stories center around individual characters’ backstories, and the creative teams throughout vary. Does this anthology manage to feel cohesive even with its differing parts?
It doesn’t take long for this collection to start feeling lopsided. Most of the comics included are only eight or so pages long, and some of them utilize that limited space much more effectively than others. The first story, “Train Hopper,” stars McCree, and is one of the collection’s best. A lot of its charm comes from the artist, Bengal. Their pencils capture motion very well, and are a great fit for an action tale set upon a moving train. The scenic countryside background imagery is gorgeous, with beautiful green, orange, and blue tones. There’s also some great mixing of shadows and light as McCree’s gunfire illuminates panels set inside a dark tunnel. The whole story is pleasing to look at from beginning to finish. Another plus to the story is that writer Robert Brooks doesn’t bite off more than he can chew. He tells a tale of McCree finishing a job, with succinctness and badassery.
Other stories in the collection succeed or fail largely based upon how much they try to accomplish with a very short page count. It’s absolutely possible to create an emotionally effective story that endears one to a character in only eight pages, but it is extraordinarily difficult. This collection’s lowest points occur when stories try and fail to hit that mark. “Dragon Slayer,” for instance, features Reinhardt standing up to bandits who have been taking advantage of vulnerable townsfolk, but the story does little to distinguish its main character from any other generic good guy protagonist. “A Better World,” starring Symmetra, addresses moral questions about when attempts to help actually harm, but doesn’t utilize said material to its fullest potential. Because the events of the comic are so short, Symmetra’s inner debate feels rushed, and like it hasn’t been fully explored.
There is still much plenty to like in this collection, though. Even its more middle-of-the-pack stories have some aspects that are admirable. The Junkrat and Roadhog-centric story “Going Legit,” for instance, features nice artwork by Gray Shuko, who really nails the characters’ expressions and sense of unpredictable fun. It’s probably fair to say that most of the collection’s stories are stronger visually than they are narratively. Almost all of the artists deliver solid (and sometimes stellar) work. It’s unfortunate that the collection’s writing isn’t up to par with its art. While some of the stories are quick, fun snippets in the lives of various Overwatch characters, others bore to the point that even eight pages feel like a hassle to get through.
Overall, Overwatch: Anthology Volume 1 is a mixed bag. Anthologies always face the potential problem of one or two pieces vastly outshining the rest of their contents, and this collection is no exception. The frequently strong artwork and handful of cute stories here aren’t strong enough to make up for several boring segments and the fact that the collection’s narrative highs never reach “excellent” territory. If you’re already attached to the characters then this collection might be worth a look, otherwise it’s probably worth skipping.