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9/21/2013

Devil May Cry (Dreamwave comic) Review

So far on this tour of obscure video game comic adaptations, we've looked at a good comic that fell into the crapper once it branched out into original territory, a mediocre Astro Boy fanfic wearing a Mega Man costume, and a forgettable attempt at adapting Maximo that felt more like a PG-rated Berserk.  Now it's time to look at Dreamwave's take on one of Capcom's better known franchises of recent years, Devil May Cry.

For those unaware, here's a brief primer: Devil May Cry is an over-the-top action game series masterminded by acclaimed game director Hideki Kamiya and starring Dante, the half-demon devil hunter. The franchise quickly became known for its intricate combat mechanics, high difficulty level and its dark atmosphere, albeit one offset with an irreverent and campy tone.  The first game became a runaway hit in the early days of the PS2, resulting in the franchise spawning a total of two sequels and a prequel before receiving a controversial reboot in early 2013 that pushed for a more somber tone and overall grittier style.

That's neither here nor there, however, since Dreamwave's comic adaptation is not an original story for once, but rather a retelling of the original game.  Does sticking to the source material cause it to fare better than their previous two forays into video game comics?  Well, let's dig in and find out.

Again, I apologize for the grainy scans.  I think it's the gloss on the pages that's making my scanner freak out over the images.  Or maybe my scanner just sucks, which isn't unlikely.


Our first cover is a tad bit confusing.  This is an adaptation of the first Devil May Cry game, so why are they using the cover art for Devil May Cry 2?  I guess it was the most recent game out at the time, but it's probably not the wisest decision for a cover considering Devil May Cry 2 was generally disliked by fans of the original...

Our comic opens 2000 years ago in the demon world, where we see Sparda (Dante's father) cleaving through two demons with one swing of his sword - one decapitated, one having the top of his head shaved clean off - and shouting for Mundus to come face him.  Mundus, a god-like figure, comes down and begins a sword-duel with him.  Cue exposition fighting!


Mundus looks as though he's about to end the battle, but Sparda turns things around by clawing him across the face and smashing him into the ground.  Just before he can land the killing blow, though, we abruptly cut to a different scene 2000 years later.

A woman in shredded clothing being hung upside-down and attacked by giant fly-monsters.  Before this can turn into a really bad hentai, though, Dante enters the sewer they're in, blowing away three of the fly monsters in short order with his pistols.  A fourth soon appears, which he tosses his sword at; it seems to miss, but then it boomerangs around and decapitates it from behind, ending the fight.  All this whilst an unseen narrator exposits about how Dante's a badass killing machine who only takes on strange jobs like this one.  Nice.

We then cut to a bar where it's revealed that the bartender is our narrator, talking to a blonde woman with extremely long legs:

Or maybe just the world's largest platform heels, I can't be sure

She comes to Dante's shop, the eponymous Devil May Cry, and makes a grand entrance by crashing his motorcycle through the front wall.  She then proceeds to kick him across the room, toss his own sword through his chest and hurl his motorcycle at him.  Understandably quite angry at this, Dante shoots his motorcyle out of the air and then holds her at swordpoint, demanding to know what she wants.

She gives her name as "Trish" and explains that Mundus is about to be reborn, and that Dante is the only one tough enough to defeat him.  Oh, and all that violence a second ago?  That was just to be sure he was as tough as advertised.

I would comment about how silly it is of him to take all of that at face value after Trish just broke down his wall and tried to murder him, but this scene played out exactly the same way in the game, so I'll just go with it.  They travel to Mallet Island, where the last of Mundus' followers once lived, and split up to try and find an entrance.

As in the game, Dante decides to make his own entrance by knocking down a wall.  However, the second he enters, the wall mysteriously reseals itself, trapping him.  Taking a few steps inside, he's hit with a blast of oppressive evil atmosphere as he temporarily turns to chicken-scratches.


I suppose that's as good a cue as any to talk about the artwork.  It's actually quite good, matching the gothic scenery and gritty style of the game very well.  The sheer amount of detail in each panel is downright staggering; it almost looks like a series of paintings rather than a comic book.  One can't help but wonder if the budget behind each of their comics was a contributing factor in Dreamwave's ultimate bankruptcy...

In any case, Dante explores the castle a bit more, remarking that Mundus' followers were very ahead of their time in terms of technology and architecture, in particular noting a flying machine they've constructed in one room.  He's then set upon by some demonic puppets (the generic mooks from the game) and another fight scene breaks out.

He takes out a few of them, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that he's outnumbered and they show no sign of stopping, so he retreats from the room.  He only gets a second to take in the situation, though, before he's set upon by another foe...


Phantom, the recurring boss character from the game, sets upon Dante as the issue abruptly ends.


Issue 2's cover seems to imply that the story will pick up right where the last issue left off, depicting Phantom and Dante in an extremely dark room.  But that's not quite the case as first we get a flashback to just before the events of the previous comic, showing Trish shaking down a one-eyed guy for information about Dante.  It's honestly pretty pointless and I'm not sure why they included it.

Cut back to Dante and Phantom, who are having a dialogue about how Dante is clearly out of his league against the massive spider-demon.  Dante seems to agree at first, but quickly goes on the attack by slashing Phantom across the eyes, blinding him.

All that seems to do is piss Phantom off, however, as he chases Dante down the hall, spewing fire at him.  It isn't long before he's cornered and Phantom moves in for the kill, but Dante once again reverses the situation by running up the wall, tossing his sword into the Phantom's mouth as he faces upward to spew fire at him. The blow seems to be fatal as Phantom falls lifelessly to the ground.

This whole scene was somehow witnessed by Mundus and one of his underlings, whom he identifies as Vergil.  He rejects that name, though, saying that Vergil died long ago and that he is Nelo Angelo.  Whichever it is, Mundus sends him to face Dante.

Elsewhere, Dante faces his most terrifying foe yet:


He thumbs through a volume or two, discovering that the former owners of the castle seemed to believe they were working for God, rather than some demonic entity.  This works better in the game you don't see Mundus in his angelic visage until the end of the game, but it loses its mysterious edge in the comic when the guy's been prominently featured in several scenes already.

Trish decides to show up, recreating a cliched scene from a horror film as she slowly creeps up on him to tap him on the shoulder, only to get grabbed and thrown on top of a table for her efforts.  Dante demands to know exactly what's going on in this place, but before Trish can answer, they're set upon by dozens of spiders.  Dante responds by twisting his arm at an extremely unnatural angle:

I can see it!  The fear!  The FEAR!

It's a little hard to follow what happens next, but I guess he squashed one of the spiders with his dislocated hand only to discover that they have acid for blood as his glove suddenly has several holes burnt in it.  Then the floor starts to burn and boil as Phantom erupts from it again.   Dante and Trish are separated as they flee from Phantom, with Dante shutting himself in a room on the top floor.  He doesn't even get a minute to catch his breath, though, as his own reflection steps out of a nearby mirror to assault him, throwing him out a window.


It turns out his reflection was actually Nelo Angelo, mirroring another scene from the game.  They fight as they fall, then continue to fight once they land in the courtyard, with Nelo quickly gaining the upper hand as he swats Dante's guns away and pins him against a wall; upon seeing Dante's amulet, however, he has a mental breakdown and flees the area.  That's Phantom's cue to come roaring back and immediately launch us into another fight scene.

This scene also doesn't last long as Dante angrily chops off several of Phantom's legs and causes the ground to collapse beneath him, plunging him back into the castle foyer as his body bursts into flame.  Trish witnesses this all happening, causing her to make this ominous remark:


We then cut ahead to "Sometime later", where Dante confronts Nelo Angelo in the sluices below the castle.  Dante asks whether he's really one of them; Nelo replies that he was "once a man" before landing a sneak attack on Dante, punching through his chest.  He then walks away with the crytic words "Forgive me, mother...".


Our third issue's cover is about as plain as you can get, with Nelo Angelo in front of a stock red background full of indeterminate objects.  It's well drawn per the art standard of this comic, but otherwise it's pretty unremarkable.

We open on a flashback showing two white-haired boys having a sword battle.  One of them quickly wins the fight, but the other takes it poorly, taking a wild swing at him and then angrily striking him down.  As their mother comes running, the flashback ends, revealing it to be a dream by Dante in an uncharacteristically angsty moment.  He's woken up by Trish, who tends to his injuries with some magical green orbs.  Cute.

A cutaway to Nelo Angelo plays out, where he utters the words "Happy Birthday, Brother", implying that he was the other boy in the dream.  Then it's right back to Dante and Trish as they take a shortcut deeper into the castle.  They banter for a bit before more monsters attack, forcing them into battle once again.  This time, they bear a slight resemblance to Xenomorphs from the Alien series:


Dante dispatches a good number of them with his handguns, finishing off the last by messily cleaving it in half with his sword.  Trish seems to have vanished again during the fight, with Dante's only lead being a trail of blood leading into a hole in the ground.  With that, he does the only reasonable thing he can think of and climbs down, leading him to an underground cavern with a beached ship inside.

I hope not - I hate ice levels!

Again, it's a little hard to follow, but what I think happens is this: Dante slips and falls in the water, where he's confronted by more of the alien-like monsters from earlier.  He quickly defeats them and enters the ship from below, eventually emerging on the deck by punching a hole through it.  There, he's confronted by the next boss another of Mundus' top soldiers, a giant bird named Griffon.  Time for more exposition-fighting!


We also get another typo here with Griffon telling Dante "You'll be consumed by that dark side of yours, ust like your--".  Can't blame that one on the spellchecker, guys!

Griffon's taunting enrages Dante, giving him enough drive to charge up the ship's mast and unload a salvo of gunfire on Griffon, finishing him of by impaling him on the mast.  He bursts into flame and the mast breaks off, causing him to fall back to the deck; Dante demands to know Nelo's whereabouts from him.

The scene cuts away once more back to Nelo Angelo and Mundus, who have witnessed Griffon's defeat.  Nelo remarks that Mundus should have maintained his faith in him instead, with Mundus replying that his emotions are a hindrance to him.  Nevertheless, he seems to give Nelo another chance as the next scene shows him confronting Dante once again.

Some allusion to the events of Devil May Cry 3

Dante manages to turn the tides this time, remarking that the fact that his corruption by Mundus is what truly holds him back, and lands a fatal blow on him.  He takes Nelo's amulet from him before being blindsided by Trish.


Unfortunately, that's where the series ends.  The company went bust shortly after this issue was printed, resulting in the advertised fourth issue and the trade paperback of the series never being released.

So how does Dreamwave's Devil May Cry stand up?  ...Pretty well, actually.  It's a relatively faithful adaptation of the game's plot, the artwork is solid (though a bit difficult to follow at times) and the expanded story elements don't feel out of place.  Could have used a bit more swordplay during the many battle scenes, perhaps, but all in all it's quite enjoyable.  If you're only going to pick up one of Dreamwave's comic adaptations of popular video games, make it this one, because it's definitely the best of the three.  Just a shame the fourth issue was never released to tie it all together...

Well, that concludes our look at Dreamwave's stories, but we have just one more video game comic to look at.  Tune in next time for the hypest video game comic of them all!