Although the story is fairly lackluster and slows down significantly after the fast-paced introductory pages, Kismet and Jani's relationship is the real star of ANTHEM #1. Walters and Freed craft a believable dynamic between the siblings and the diversity is wonderful. However, readers who played ANTHEM and want more of the world will get a kick out of it. Otherwise, as a standalone series, it's hard to recommend.
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With the upcoming video game series ANTHEM just around the corner, Dark Horse brings us ANTHEM #1. Indeed, this series features Bioware Creative Director Mac Walters and Alexander Freed, art by Eduardo Francisco, and colors by Michael Atiyeh. Set several years before the events of the video game, ANTHEM #1 follows an orphan named Kismet and his adoptive sister, Jani. Is this another shameless cash-grab video game tie-in series or is it worth adding to your pull list? It’s quite hard to say but ANTHEM #1 is a solid — if another by-the-books — story with not much of interest outside of the characters and lore.

The Struggle Between Scars and Freelancers

ANTHEM #1 takes place over the course of several years on the continent of Mirrus. Initially, we meet a Freelancer — warriors who man Iron Man-like exosuits called Javelins — named Yarrow who fights off a bunch of enemies called Scars. An omniscient narrator explains that Scars are scavengers who return to a place called The Hive for reincarnation. Soon Yarrow discovers Kismet hiding in the shadows and rescues him. Then Yarrow takes Kismet to the human sanctuary known as Fort Tarsis — the hub area in the game. There, the story shifts its focus to Jani and Kismet’s relationship as it develops over time. Eventually we learn that Kismet plans to go away to another city to train to become a Cypher — someone who serves as intel for Freelancers.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

The story casually drops a bunch of terms which tends to leave people not familiar with ANTHEM in the cold. While Walters and Freed do a good job explaining the world, we only get hints on how it works. For instance, Freelancers rely on the aforementioned Javelins which Walters and Freed describe as “arcanist science and philosophy rendered in steel.” Because the plot is slow-paced, we don’t get to see much of Fort Tarsis’ culture and the way it works in ANTHEM #1. Thus, on that end, it’s disappointing.

Kismet and Jani’s Relationship Takes the Spotlight

Fortunately, ANTHEM #1 manages to make Kismet and Jani’s relationship believable. Indeed, when we initially meet Jani, we learn that she lives with her frail, lonely grandmother in Fort Tarsis. Ultimately, Jani’s grandmother invites Kismet in to stay with them. Of course, this leads to some growing pains between Kismet and Jani who start off rocky. But eventually, Jani softens up to Kismet and the two grow close over the years. Namely, Jani experiences love and heartbreak with a nameless girl. In addition, Jani’s role as a primary caregiver for her grandmother starts to take a toll on her mental health because she runs away. All the while, Kismet is there for her during good and bad times.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

ANTHEM #1 deserves credit for its inclusion of LGBTQ and characters and people of color. Although this issue only shows one so far in the form of Jani, Walters and Freed take great care with avoiding stereotypes. Notably Jani is quite agile as she possesses parkour skills and is a fierce big sister. However, she’s the only character of color we see in this issue besides her grandmother. Hopefully later issues feature more characters because ANTHEM #1 feels a bit bare bones as is.

The Art Remains Faithful to the Video Game

Artist Eduardo Francisco does the source material justice in this series. Remarkably, Francisco lovingly brings to life Javelin classes such the Ranger and Storm classes. In ANTHEM #1, the Ranger Javelin shows off some the abilities that it has in the game. Thus, it’s a treat for anyone who’s familiar with the video game. Best of all, Francisco does a great job with illustrating the passage of time. Over the several years, we see Kismet and Jani grow up, changing clothes and, in Jani’s case, hair styles.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

Rounding off the art is Michael Atiyeh who handles colors in ANTHEM #1. Having worked on other video game comic books, Atiyeh does a good job fleshing out Francisco’s art. In fact, Atiyeh gives the world of ANTHEM #1 a hybrid feel between post-apocalyptic setting, sci-fi, and fantasy. Atiyeh does a great job contrasting the earthy feel of Fort Tarsis with grey colors that emphasize technology. But it’s clear that the Javelins are the star of this issue because Atiyeh makes them look just like the video game.

Closing Comments on ANTHEM #1

Although it suffers from a lackluster plot, ANTHEM #1 is fine thanks to Kismet and Jani’s relationship. However, the art and colors are solid enough that it holds the whole series together. That said, anyone who enjoys ANTHEM the video game and wants more of it should add this series to their pull list. Otherwise, it’s hard to recommend it to readers who want a new sci-fi adventure mini-series to check out.

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