Wolfenstein Vol 1: Descent into Madness

Wolfenstein is one of the most venerable names in the computer (video) game industry, it’s sometimes labelled as the grandfather of all first person shooter game genres, and alongside the Doom label, has perhaps seen more attempts at reboots than others.  Despite a few lackluster attempts, ID software brought the franchise back in 2014’s memorable Wolfenstein: The New Order.  The plot revolved around our familiar hero BJ Blazkowicz being in a coma for 20 years while the Nazis rampaged through Europe and eventually won the second world war.  He emerges from the coma in the 1960’s and proceeds to murder more Nazis.

Titan Comics have published a narrative to bridge the gap between Wolfenstein : The New Order and the upcoming Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus game.  It’s presented here as one complete collection and focuses on the American front immediately after the first game finishes.  Written by Dan Waters and illustrated by Piotr Kowalski  and Ronilson Freire , this title is fun, exciting and packed with hyperbolic action sequences.

We begin with some excellent exposition of how America fell into the hands of the Nazi invaders, this is placed as a counterpoint to scenes displaying an idyllic community being built as a refuge for those persecuted by the occupying force in a wilderness.  The community is appropriately names Sanctuary, and we are introduced to it’s leader – who is introduced to the reader as a Professor of some kind.  Things begin to change for the citizens of Sanctuary, when the Nazi’s discover that it is situated above something incredibly old and powerful – which naturally they want.

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There’s wonderful nods to Nazi superstition and crazy beliefs regarding racial purity – which naturally revolve around an ancient race known as The Thule.  Also I especially appreciated the nods to the lovecraftian mythos – beings with tentacles are revealed as a Nazi submarine discovers and investigates the ancient and dreadful city of the Thulian race .  Wolfenstein as a gaming franchise has always enjoying exposition which includes the outlandish rumours which have been linked with Nazism, the symbol of the Black Sun is explored in depth in this comic and it’s ties with the power of the occult.

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BJ returns and as expected he’s even better at killing Nazi’s in this volume, I appreciated how the writers utilised the fact (which crops up a few times in the game franchise) that BJ has never learned any more than a few words of German during his travels.  There’s a brilliant line about him being the “Master of Tactical Silence” which raises a smile and elicits the trademark humour of the series .

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BJ could have been a difficult character to write for, on the surface, there’s not really a lot of depth with the character.  But Dan brings some needed nuances to his mannerisms and a sense of weight regarding his duty.  He’s still a form of ‘dumb action hero’ but he becomes more rounded as a protagonist and his dialogue – which is taciturn, contrasts with the language of the narration and the dialogue for the other main protagonist – The Professor.

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The artworks is colourful and vibrant, the greys of the Nazi uniforms contrasting with the deep reds and purples of the visions of Thule and the aquamarine of the underwater Eldritch cities.  The characters as well designed and action sequences are particularly bloody.  I enjoyed one scene which happens as the sun is beginning to set, the fading embers of the amber-orange approach to evening playing off the soldiers faces as blood spurts from their jackets – bullets raining down upon them.  It’s a lovely cinematic scene and seems to be played out in slow motion.

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I really enjoyed this comic book, you don’t need to have played the Wolfenstein game to understand the plot – as there is a primer at the start of the volume. It’s a great adventure story, but if you aren’t a fan of the series may seem a little weak in it’s conclusion.

It’s available from Amazon and Comixology

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