Review: Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story – Issue #1-4
Silent Hill: Downpour was the last main entry in the Silent Hill series before this year’s Gamescom reveal of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro’s Silent Hills. Downpour was released on March 13, 2012 (my birthday, oddly enough), and I quite liked it. Having known of a comic book tie-in since the game was released, I’ve been awaiting the day to finally get some answers behind the game’s more elusive plot-points and mysterious characters.
Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story aims to give us an expanded look on the events of the game but from officer Anne Cunningham’s point of view. Originally conceived as DLC, Anne’s Story comes two years after the game’s release, and while that’s a bit late to release a complimentary comic series, I’m glad to finally learn what Anne experienced during Murphy’s journey through the town, where they both fought their own personal demons.
This review will be updated as each issue releases, and I’ll provide a number score for the series when it is complete.
Anne’s Story issue #1 starts with the scene where Murphy Pendleton and Anne Cunningham exchange words for the first time. If you’ve played the game, you know that this is where Anne tries to reach Murphy across a tear in the mountain side not too far from the prison transfer bus that they once shared, he as a prisoner and she as an officer. Anne’s journey begins as soon as she falls to what Murphy thought was her death and down a rabbit hole made of her own nightmares.
It’s worth mentioning immediately that to understand what’s happening in this comic, you pretty much have to have completed the game. Issue #1 jumps around between the early moments of the game, events unique to Anne, and flashbacks with her father, the driving force behind her hatred for Murphy. Based on the whole concept of this comic series and issue #1, I’d have to say that it probably won’t work well as a standalone story since it’s so intrinsically tied to Murphy’s own parable.
It’s perhaps because of the story’s transition from a DLC add-on to limited comic series that issue #1 of Anne’s Story feels a bit disjointed and a tad rushed. Within 20 pages, the narrative moved quickly and I felt that the series of events that were displayed, starting with her fall off of the mountainside and an end at Devils Pit mine, didn’t provide me with enough time to acclimate to her frightening encounters and surroundings. This is especially a shame since some of the better-looking set pieces aren’t on the page long enough to truly appreciate the artist’s imagination at work.
The art of Anne’s Story is done by Tristan Jones and in many situations lends itself very well stylistically to Downpour‘s aesthetic. The color palette ranges from cool outdoor scenes, to warm and dark areas that feature deep, rich colors, much like the game itself. One gripe that I have is that there’s a lot of imagery that depicts fairly typical looking scary monsters, complete with mangled faces and monstrous mouths. Downpour‘s own monster design wasn’t very good and shared the same problems, though. Admittedly, the Weeping Bat monster is depicted better than I expected since its original design is uninspired to begin with.
Anne encounters several monstrous representations of figures from the past in the comic, and they end up speaking outright to her. Now, this is a very fanboyish nitpick, but I found it a bit out of place for a zombie-esque monster and monster kids to speak so outright to Anne, making some moments of this issue feel like a typical ghost story rather than a Silent Hill tale. The way that these beings are presented didn’t jive with me too much, and didn’t feel right (or appropriately Silent Hill), although that’s entirely subjective (what is and isn’t Silent Hill-ish), and I’ll reserve final judgment in that regard when the series is complete.
Overall, issue #1 has redeemable moments because of a fitting art style; it being the start of a story that I’ve been waiting to hear for a long time coming also helps. I have a few problems with the comic’s start, but I hope that it finds its rhythm in following issues.
The second issue of Silent Hill: Downpour: Anne’s Story picks up right after Murphy Pendleton’s minecart ride in Devil’s Pit. His exchange with Anne, now from her perspective, sheds light on Anne’s reasons behind her decision to let him live despite the town’s persistence in reminding her that he is at fault for her father’s death.
From this point on, issue #2 of Anne’s Story proceeds with her physical and emotional journey through the town of Silent Hill, complete with her own demons. Unlike the first issue, which I had problems with due to its pacing, this one carries itself with a much more palatable speed. It feels much more cohesive and easier to follow despite its multiple transitions from Anne’s flashbacks and her present nightmare. Anne’s motivations, which was previously left only to the game to explain, is nicely expanded in this issue, garnering more sympathy for her as a character and adding some context to her actions and scattered appearances throughout the game.
While previously suggested, what Anne had to do to motion for Murphy’s prison transfer to Ryall State, a transfer that put him within her vengeful reach, consisted of a sexual nature. Subtlety is not to be expected in this issue’s art, as Anne comes face-face with another demon of her past, manifested in the form of a creature that not only speaks (a nitpick I still have after the first issue), but looks monstrously phallic. The design of this creature, outside of one panel that makes the sexual overtones painfully blunt, is quite gruesome and more in line with what I’d expect from the series than the actual monster designs that inhabit Downpour. For this I have to give artist Tristan Jones (and colorist Michael Spicer) kudos. In the last issue, monsters appeared more zombie-like and less inspired, which felt like wasted potential.
As before, the art compliments the story’s tone very well, adding a dream-like vagueness to background and monster detail. Anne’s journey through her memories and the town are also done in a way that feels appropriately disconcerting, but comprehensible. The contrast between nightmare worlds and the foggy town is also appreciated as it contributes to this effect nicely.
Issue #2 of Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story feels like this comic series has found a comfortable pace. I very much enjoyed this one and am looking forward to seeing if the remaining issues can manage to tell a complimentary story to Silent Hill: Downpour, reinforcing my appreciation of it and making this series a must-have for fans. Issue #3 is expected in November.
Things are picking up for Anne in the third issue of Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story. Last we saw her she left Devil’s Pit, an underground mine turned tourist attraction. Given information on the location of the town’s radio station by Howard Blackwood, the enigmatic postman of the town, Anne set her course through the foggy streets of the town in search of some answers to what’s causing the nightmarish events around her.
The penultimate issue of Anne’s Story continues Anne’s exploration through the town of Silent Hill and the past events that intertwined her and Murphy Pendleton’s lives. The consequences of Anne’s vengeful actions, more specifically the sacrifice of her marriage and conscience, comes into a heavier focus in this issue as we’re shown just how much Anne’s life fell apart after her father’s incident. What’s starting to become apparent in Anne’s Story is perhaps her own mental instability prior to reaching the town of Silent Hill. With her mother dying at a young age, Anne’s relationship with her father was very strong, and the lengths she was willing to go to get revenge against Murphy Pendleton destroyed the parts of her life she still had intact.
Having been suggested in the game itself, it is confirmed that Anne exchanged a sexual favor in order to put Murphy within her grasp. This event not only damaged her relationship with husband Mark, but perhaps her reputation as well. This action is one that the town of Silent Hill grasps onto in this issue in another event where the town’s creatures pantomime figures from Anne’s past, including Warden Trent, the man she had relations with to get Murphy transferred. This is where the symbolism behind the game’s monster designs become more apparent; The Doll’s design can be equated to Anne’s self-image after having slept with Warden Trent.
This issue is perhaps my favorite so far as the series has established its foundations in being a story that heavily compliments the game and its “true” protagonist, Anne. The theme of death and rebirth continues on in the comic, perhaps suggesting suicidal thoughts on the part of Anne. Her transitions from one place to another typically occur after seemingly dying, and the appearance of a demonic being bearing similarity to a creature from the town’s past opens the door to some speculation, just like a good Silent Hill story should.
Issue #3 of Anne’s Story also features some of my favorite art so far, with panels that manage to depict the rather mundane monster designs of Silent Hill: Downpour in a new light and the town itself as a foggy void.
I’m not quite sure how Anne’s Story will wrap up in its December finale, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they pull it off. Having waited two years for this story, I hope to receive a satisfying conclusion to Anne and Murphy’s story. Additionally, with the introduction of DJ Ricks in this issue, I hope to see a resolution to his character, or at least some answers regarding his reason for being trapped in the town.
The final issue of Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story wraps up the narrative started over two years ago with the release of the game. Officer Anne Cunningham’s revenge-driven mission to confront Murphy Pendleton, the man she believes responsible for the death of her father, continues in this issue with an end players of the game will be familiar with.
Issue #4 of Anne’s Story begins just after the events at the radio station, with Anne locked in a cage with the mysterious DJ Ricks, a character that didn’t get enough screentime in the game. Unfortunately, Rick’s story is still one that has not been told, with no backstory for the character being revealed or even hinted at, just more of what he said in the game – the town is in control. It’s disappointing seeing no additional information on the character as his presence indicates that Silent Hill can become a repeating hellish sentence with no end, (which can be seen as symbolic of prison, the theme tying Murphy and Anne together) and his comments allude to a greater force, a watchful eye, that isn’t touched upon outside of the inclusion of a creature that resembles a certain Silent Hill deity in issue #3.
With the game alone, Anne’s actions toward Murphy appear manic; one moment Anne’s threatening to kill Murphy and another she lets him go. The comic series delves deeper into her actions and shows how chaotic her thoughts were throughout the events of the game. Fueled by the desire to avenge her father’s death, but also wrestling with the morality he himself instilled in his daughter. In a way, the monsters of the town guide Anne to the discovery that she needs to make regarding Murphy, perhaps somewhat helping her rather than punishing her. Even when they outright attack her, she continues on, even if it appears she may have been killed.
Overall, the fourth issue plays catch up with the later events of the game and a lot of the imagery, while depicted nicely, lacks a lot of the context that can only be obtained from playing the game itself. As with the first issue, the pacing feels a bit frantic but the story hits the right notes in terms of filling in the gaps between Anne’s appearances. And as with each issue before it, the final issue features enjoyable art, often times depicting imagery from the game accurately and if not better in some cases. The conclusion itself just feels a bit hastily done, merely depicting the end events of the game and ending without additional detail.
As a whole, the Silent Hill Downpour: Anne’s Story four issue series is one that will appeal mainly to fans of the Downpour game. But Anne’s Story simply does work as a standalone story, in my opinion. Those interested in jumping into it should play the game first. The amount of time in between the game’s release and this complimentary side-story is also a factor in how effective the story is going to be, even to someone like myself that was heavily invested in the game when it released.
Anne’s Story set out and achieved what it meant to do: tell Anne’s side of things during the events of the game, but in the end it still feels a bit lacking. It’s a fun read for fans of the game, and is a nice complimentary story with quality art and coloring, but it just didn’t grab me as much as I wish it did. But if you’re a fan of the game, I’d recommend picking up the comic regardless.