When it comes to licensed properties in the comic book medium, IDW is king. Godzilla: Half Century War is one of the best limited series I’ve read in years. Judge Dredd is terrific. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Fuh-get-a-bout-iiiitttt! With so many great licensed comic book properties to choose from, it’s no wonder I was caught off guard when I read “Borderlands Origins #3” by Mike Neumann and Agustin Padilla, because it is without a doubt one of the most foul turds I’ve ever had the misfortune of smelling.
Allow me to clarify one thing: I am a Borderlands fanatic through-and-through. I played the original game until my eyes bled when it debuted. I’ve been playing Borderlands 2 for weeks now and, despite having read this nickel bin reject, will continue to play it for some time to come. As anyone who’s ever played the game will tell you the true appeal doesn’t lie in exploring the main characters. In fact, aside from telling you what your character’s official name is (a detail you may change if you wish) and declaring that he or she is a “vault hunter” there really isn’t any established in-game back story what-so-ever. No, the true appeal to Borderlands as a video game was how it was never too concerned with or weighed down by such details. From the time your character stepped off of Marcus’ bus, it allowed you to be your own vault hunter, any way you chose, and proceeded to supply you with hundreds of thousands of guns to blow crap up with. It’s really quite genius, in its simplicity. So what then, does “Borderlands Origins #3” hope to add to this universe? “What was the vault hunter Mordecai doing just moments before he stepped on Marcus’ bus”; a question that literally no one was asking.
To say that the plot of “Borderlands Origins #3” is boring, formulaic and predictable would actually be pretty insulting to most of the boring, formulaic, and predictable comics I’ve ever read; it’s really so much worse. Devoid of the humor the game is adored for, the reader is subjected to scene after scene of lackluster dribble. Mordecai throws out an eye-rollingly bad quip about having some thug he fights “ride him like a donkey” which, as if it weren’t bad enough the first time, actually becomes a running joke upon which a lot of the dialog is centered. A character befriends Mordecai, and only two pages after telling him he shouldn’t trust anybody in Pandora, and readers think to themselves “She’s going to betray him,” she betrays him. That’s about as deep as this well goes, sadly, and I can’t help but wonder where’s the heart? Where’s the soul? Was the point of this really to expand on the Borderlands universe and add something die-hard fans will be talking about for years to come, or to sucker people into buying an uninspired rag because it had a well-known brand name attached to its cover? A few pages in, it becomes pretty clear it was the latter.
As far as Padilla’s art is concerned, the background in over half the book is non-existent. It’s mostly all foreground with different colors used as a backdrop. It’s hard not to see this as being done out of pure laziness, complete disrespect of the viewer’s intelligence, or both. Worse still, the complete absence of a background in most panels gives a heightened awareness of the foreground, which really doesn’t help matters when the only way to distinguish a lot of characters is by the clothes they’re wearing instead of, you know, their faces. Just terrible.
Borderlands is a property that, with the right attitude and direction, could very well make for an entertaining read some day, but this comic misses the spirit of the game by a wide margin. Take my advice and avoid Borderlands Origins like the plague.