In the interview in the back of Pandora: End of Days, artist Jim Song Kim talks mostly about his love of Survival Horror games. And that is telling, because the comic he created with writer Peter J. Ang feels just like the loose plot and cut-scenes that you would find in a Survival Horror game. And there also lies the problem.
In an actual video game, in between the plot breadcrumbs and cutscenes you get to move the characters around, search for clues, shoot zombies and generally have a good time. The story elements are not intended to carry the game, just enhance what is there. Imagine a game from the House of the Dead franchise with all of the game play removed and just the plot points and cut scenes bound together in a comic book. That is pretty much what you get with Pandora: End of Days.
The formatting of Pandora: End of Days reflects these video game dreams. Originally a webcomic, Pandora consists of widescreen panels with a ratio more like a flatscreen TV than a horizontal comic book. Almost every page is a single-panel splash page meant to be read one at a time as if clicking through a powerpoint.
The plot is typical of the Survival-Horror genre. A beautiful, blonde, high school girl from New Jersey named Katie has an archeologist father involved in a shady deal with the conglomerate Obari Corporation. Katie’s day discovered some buried tombs with sarcophagi 50,000 years older than Egypt complete with warning label. He cautions the Obari Corporation not to open them, but the greedy suits decide to have a public unveiling of the new discovery, and thus unleash a zombie-plague on the unsuspecting New Jersey. Katie’s father succumbs to the plague, but not before revealing to Katie that he left notebooks and a powerful relic at the apartment for her for just this occasion.
The strength of Pandora: End of Days is the art is gorgeous. Kim created a moody, powerful style combining computer-assisted line drawing with rendered grayscale textures and backgrounds. Kim is clearly a student of Japanese comics, and works in the typical “manga”-style, and does it well. He has a good grasp of figure and face. The zombies are grotesque and reptilian and appropriately frightening. Kim could use some variation in his panels and more personality in his facial expressions, and he would benefit greatly from reading Understanding Comics. He is good, but he is a little too in love with showing off his own talent on big splashy scenes.
The problem is the story, or lack thereof. The plot and characterizations are just far too thin to maintain an interest. Every single person in here is flat as cardboard, with no life or personality. People show up and get named just in time to be eaten or forgotten. There was not a single character I cared about, and even after reading the comic I had to go back and check what the main character Katie’s name was for this review. I had already forgotten. This level of simplistic story works fine for a game, but lacks the weight and depth to carry an actual comic book. All style, no substance.
Jim Song Kim in particular has some potential, although he needs to study the storytelling of comics and not just the splash pages if he is serious about succeeding in the genre. And Pandora: End of Days has potential as a comic. I like Survival-Horror, and doing a Survival-Horror in the manga style sounds pretty cool. But that pretty surface Kim works so hard on needs to be backed by solid story, characters and plot.
You can find Pandora: End of Days on Graphicly.