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Gaming Around: Ratchet & Clank

I love playing video games in the limited free time I have in between being a librarian and a parent of young children. Time is fleeting, but if I can play a game by myself for 30 minutes here and there or with my seven-year-old son, it’s great to have the opportunity to play. Video games and comic books have always had a connection with each other, from the days of the short-lived comic book series Atari Force (no, seriously!) published by DC Comics, to Archie Comics’ long-running Sonic the Hedgehog monthly comic book, to Marvel’s HALO graphic novels. Comic book heroes can make for some great video games—such as the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City video games—and in return, video game heroes can make for some great comic books. In the future, we’re going to be exploring some of the best video game tie-in comic books for kids and teens currently available.

Ratchet & Clank tpb
Ratchet & Clank
Written by TJ Fixman
Illustrated by Adam Archer
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3163-7

I was happy to see that WildStorm/DC Comics, in conjunction with Sony Entertainment, published a graphic novel in 2011 called Ratchet & Clank. The graphic novel is tied in with the popular video game series of the same name. The first Ratchet and Clank game was originally released in 2002 by Insomniac Games for the Playstation 2 game console, and the series has had multiple sequels over the years on the Playstation 3 console. Every game in the series has been released exclusively for the PlayStation family of consoles owned by Sony Computer Entertainment.

The game series features the space adventures of Ratchet (an adventurous, orange-colored, cat-like alien with a penchant for fixing things) and Clank (his diminutive robot companion). Together they regularly save the galaxy from evil. The comic book story was written by senior writer TJ Fixman from Insomniac Games, who is no stranger to the characters: He wrote the stories for four Ratchet & Clank games, and it’s great that Insomniac Games’ lead writer is there to make sure the graphic novel feels just like yet another adventure.

As the story begins, Ratchet and Clank are recuperating on the planet Veldin after their adventures from the game Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. Their rest and relaxation is short-lived: The newly appointed President of the Galaxy, Qwark—the bumbling coward superhero—shows up to tell them that planets are starting to disappear and he needs their help. When the planet Veldin disappears with Ratchet and Clank on it, they have no choice but to figure out who’s kidnapping planets. Soon they’re on the run along with the aid of characters from the video game series, including fan favorites Sasha Phyronix, Talwyn Apogee, and the robots Cronk and Zephyr.

The story is a lot of fun and sure to appeal to the fans of the video game series. I wanted to see Ratchet use really fun and outrageous firearms, as he does in the games, like my favorite, the Plasma Beast – which is a gun that shoots out a creature that fights for you – but I was sadly disappointed. There are a couple of weapons, but not anything that stands out other than the Omniwrench and a Combuster. Violence in the book is practically G-rated. There are no deaths, and all the destruction of any kind happens to robots. Also the only swear words are an occassional “Oh, Crap” that Ratchet says several times.

I do think that a one page short bio of the characters should have been included to let newbie readers who never played a Ratchet & Clank game know who the characters are. I have only been exposed to the series by the games A Crack in Time, Tools of Destruction, and All 4 One, and I had some difficulty figuring out who was who. Granted, I’ve never played the games completely through and have been progressing at the level of, well, a 7-year-old who doesn’t play the games all the time because his parents don’t want him playing them all the time. I never had a PS2, so I have never played the original games.

Also, I have a complaint about the art. I do think that Adam Archer did a great job—the cover art by the Creaturebox is what really draws the reader in, with a highly animated style that helps to encompass the fun and adventurous side of this game series. Sadly, Adam’s artwork is nowhere near as kinetic and expressive. Also, the coloring between Jonny Rench and Tony Avina is disproportionate throughout the book. In the first few chapters, the coloring is absolutely gorgeous, and Ratchet appears lightly inked with an almost airbrushed quality to his look. In other chapters of the graphic novel, the artwork’s coloring is flat and thickly inked and is distracting.

For fans of the video game, though, you can’t get any better than having Insomniac Games’ TJ Fixman writing a new Ratchet and Clank adventure. All that’s missing is a video game controller. For those who haven’t played the game series and were intriqued by the story, despite the lack of the “Who’s Who” roster this book needed, there’s a lot of good fun sci-fi adventure here, mixed in with plenty of humor. By the end I’m sure you’ll be a fan of the series.

Until next time, game on!

Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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