Uncharted comic review: Thrilling Heroics

Maybe Naughty Dog should have gotten Joshua Williamson to write Uncharted 4, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading the Uncharted comic, it’s that this is a man who knows what makes the series tick. It has all the action, all the laughs, and all the characterisation that makes Uncharted great, with none of the brooding, gloomy manfeels that bogged down Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

Taking place before Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (and probably before Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, though this isn’t specified), the comic follows Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan’s search for the Amber Room, aided by the diary of explorer Richard Byrd. Of course, they aren’t the only ones chasing the prize, and the journey sees them cross paths with other treasure hunters, hitmen, and a certain Chloe Frazer.

Yes, Chloe is present and accounted for in the comic, and plays a central role. Not only that, but even in the relatively limited space of a six-issue comic a strong sense of Chloe’s character shows through despite little in the way of exposition. Pages mostly dedicated to things being shot at, blown up, or falling down, but it’s through these that we get familiar with Chloe’s fickleness and occasional reliability – her tendency to look out for herself, but to come through when she’s really needed.
chloe

This is one of the things that made Chloe such an interesting character in Uncharted 2. Like so many others in the series, she’s a bit of a roguish anti-hero, but where Nate and Sully come across as far more noble in their motivations. Chloe is, at least initially, is focused on our her own interests (which conveniently align with Nate and Sully’s) and when push comes to shove, she’d rather abandon someone in need – the dying Jeff the cameraman – in order to save her own skin.

Through this, an element of distrust pervades Chloe’s involvement in Uncharted 2, which is just compounded by her role as a double agent. However, later on she has something of a change of heart and decides to continue helping Nate – blowing her cover with the enemy faction in the process – even though there’s nothing in it for her. It’s not the most groundbreaking arc, but coupled with the excellent writing of the game and a stunning performance by Claudia Black, Chloe becomes one of the most fascinating characters in that game.

Chloe plays a similar role in the Uncharted comic, which covers her first meeting with Nate. Initially, they’re in competition for the same archaeological prize, but they form an uneasy truce in order to deal with a heavily-armed, well-funded third party. Her motivations remain suspect, and the question of her loyalty hangs in the air constantly as she saves Nate’s life when it’s convenient or mutually beneficial, leaves him to hang when it’s not, and ultimately comes through in the crunch despite her best interests.

rpg

On top of this, excellent writing and choreography instils in Chloe (and the rest of the cast) a great sense of personality, in the same way that Uncharted 2 did. At one point, Drake asks Chloe about her history, to which she sarcastically responds: “I was just a bored housewife with a white picket fence lost in the daily grind of the Mid-west lifestyle when a mysterious man…”. Earlier on, a scuffle between the pair that’s dripping with sexual tension ends with Chloe pinning Nate to the ground; their faces close enough to kiss, she says “Guess what?” Nate’s response—”What?”—is answered by Chloe saying “That’s what!” as she knees him in the groin, before running off to get to the treasure first.

There are plenty such moments, interspersed with the occasional more heartfelt scene, like Chloe showing unexpectedly showing compassion to an enemy. She doesn’t have a particularly sharply-defined character arc here (nobody does, really), but there’s plenty to speak to the complexity of her character. It certainly helps that I couldn’t avoid hearing Claudia Black’s voice every time I was reading Chloe’s dialogue.

Of course, none of this is restricted to Chloe; Nate, Sully, and even Flynn have their comedic, character-driving moments, but it’s most apparent in Chloe. By now, we already know Nate well—and he certainly lives up to his charms in the book—but Chloe’s presence across four games has been relatively sparse, so to see some material place her more or less at the front and centre is welcome.

You can’t make an Uncharted without ridiculous set-pieces, and that’s something the comic delivers in spades. Among the expected shootouts and car chases is the infiltration of a Russian castle, a crash landing into an arctic chasm, and even an Aladdin-style escape from a cave that’s collapsing into lava. Sergio Sandoval and Pol Gas’ art has a sense of momentum and kineticism that really brings these scenes to life and makes them every bit as exciting as the games – or, in the case of the shootouts, significantly more so.  

escape

The Uncharted comic book has everything that an Uncharted story needs: ridiculous action, a McGuffin to chase, plenty of wisecracks, and a late-game supernatural threat. Most importantly, it captures the emotion and personality of the series, and the characters within it, in a way that Uncharted 4 (and, to a lesser degree, Uncharted 3) just didn’t. It’s a book that reminds me why I love this series, and has me yearning even more than I was for another game—not necessarily an Uncharted 5, but at least a spinoff centred on Chloe’s exploits. Put Joshua Williamson on the writing team (ideally alongside Amy Hennig, but what are the chances of that?) and you’ll have a game that truly deserves to carry the Uncharted name.

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.