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Dark Horse Comics has recently released the first two issues of a new series, inspired by the Call of Duty: Black Ops III video game. Unfortunately, it fails to capture any of the aspects that make that game good and instead, focuses on building around one of the worst parts of the series.
The difference between the story being told in Dark Horse Comics’ Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Call of Duty: Black Ops III the video game, are – at first – startling. The main difference between the two, and really what is at the heart of the story being told in the Call of Duty campaign, is how the value of life is portrayed. In the video game, the value of life, and who decides how each individual life should be valued, is a key driving force in the narrative. For a video game series that has been criticized for lazily putting out essentially the same game every year, just to cash in on the billion dollar property Call of Duty has become, Black Ops III really does a lot well.
I myself, had grown tired of the series and my excitement has increasingly diminished with each new Call of Duty announcement. With Black Ops III though, there is enough there to make this game feel fresh and exciting.
This is especially apparent in the campaign mode. Not to get too far into the story for the risk of spoilers, but there are a lot of serious issues presented in the earliest part of the campaign alone. Just in the first three missions, the idea of robotics in warfare, along with all the moral questions this brings up, are discussed. For example, being able to hack into a person’s mind and forcefully steal their memories for intelligence purposes comes up more than once. Issues of human trafficking, torture, and executions are also addressed in a thought provoking way. The solider you play as, has to make the decision of saving the lives of innocent people, being hurt, or continuing to blindly follow orders and let others die. Each of the major decisions regarding how life should be treated are not celebrated, but rather are discussed logically by each soldier. Its a very serious take on war and an interesting look at an aspect that many first person shooters simply ignore. This all then begs the question, what part of this story inspired the Call of Duty comic book? Because there are some pretty big differences.
The comic feels like it has taken its inspiration from The Expendables rather than its namesake video game. The squad of muscle bound soldiers takes joy in killing the nameless enemies around them. They make jokes during firefights and compliment the weaponry being used to kill those around them. On the very first page of the series, an arms dealer they are purchasing weapons from is stabbed directly in the temple. Rather, than feel anything towards the random act of violence they just witnessed, they compliment the blade being used. Here is the exact quote:
“Wow. Spetnaz spring knife!”
“Mondo old school…but still mondo effective.”
The complete disregard for a life being senselessly taken in front of them goes in stark contrast with the world the video game has created. The characters are even the exact same across both mediums. Dylan Stone, Jacob Hendricks, and John Taylor, are all characters in the game as well as in the comic. These are supposed to be the same characters, inhabiting the same world, going on two separate missions. The dissimilarity between the two really made me wonder where the writers could have gotten their inspiration from. Then, I sat down to play a quick game of multiplayer and everything became abundantly clear.
Call of Duty has always been a series that has taken a lot of criticism for its online experience. It has acquired a reputation as a place where small children curse and scream wildly at each other. All you have to do is type in Call of Dtuy Angry Kid on Youtube and you’ll see this stereotype play out over and over. Unfortunately, this small, very vocal, minority overshadows the majority of gamers who actually enjoy just playing online. Personally, almost all of my online experiences have been positive. It seems Dark Horse Comics has decided to try and focus on this minority by creating a brash, vulgar, and over the top interpretation of violence where insults and smack talk overtake the story.
It’s unfortunate too because, the Call of Duty: Black Ops III world is interesting and one that could have been built on in many different ways. Sadly, the comic book has chosen to ignore the story completely and create a story that feels like the worst parts of a multiplayer match. That is the wrong part of the series to take inspiration from and hopefully the rest of the project can correct this mistake.
Kenny Coburn is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter:@kennyacoburn
This is the wrong part of the series to take inspiration from.