Horizon Zero Dawn #1 follows Talanah, the new Sunhawk of the Meridian Hunters Lodge. Talanah earned her title in spite of sexism and her tarnished family legacy, two of the obstacles set against her. She has worked to make changes to the Lodge’s protocols, intent on inclusivity across all of the tribes, instead of the elitism that limited membership to the Carja tribe, and, as revealed in the Free Comic Book Day Horizon Zero Dawn #0, the Sun-King has requested Talanah’s administrative support in re-envisioning the rule of Meridian. In HZD #0, Talanah quickly discovered that paperwork and board meetings and dealing with elitist bigots are no fun. When a contract came in for a new type of beast, the clawstrider, Talanah took the opportunity. Once a hunter, always a hunter.

Sidequest was provided with a review copy of Horizon Zero Dawn #1 in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Horizon Zero Dawn #1

Anne Toole (writer), Ann Maulina (artist), Bryan Valenza (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Tolly Maggs (editor), Andrew Leung (senior designer)
Titan Comics
August 5, 2020

There isn’t as much meat to this comic as there could be. It focuses instead on action, introducing the Clawstriders and how deadly they are such that even a skilled hunter like Talanah has issue with them. She has come across them before, hunting alongside Aloy, Horizon Zero Dawn’s main character, as we learn through flashbacks. Hunting the Clawstriders on her own doesn’t go as well as she would like. The threat they pose to a nearby village provides the necessary tension and sense of urgency, but Talanah also has to deal with another hunter who questions her worth and purpose, believing she brings only trouble with her, for various reasons.

Talanah’s character arc was not one of my favourites in the game. As much as I like the character herself and the Hunters’ Lodge and its missions, I find plots that focus so overtly on Woman Overcomes Sexism to Make It to the Top to be tiresome, especially in science fiction where the opportunity exists to envision a world that isn’t trapped in such bindings. Horizon Zero Dawn manages this with race, leaving the conflict and bigotry to mainly be about the cultural differences between the tribes, but when it comes to sexism, it’s a lot of the same-old same-old. In issue #1 of the comic, this remains a constant, interspersed through dialogue and Talanah’s own thoughts.

The cover of Horizon Zero Dawn #1, featuring an illustration of Talanah and Aloy by Artgerm. The first issue comes with a series of variant covers. Some are in a cute and quirky style. Some are focused on the machines and action. The main cover is a stunning one by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau that shifts away from his usual, identifiable style and facial features, leaning more into realism (in so much as images of digitally rendered characters can be considered real.)

Inside, we are introduced to the major players—Aloy, Talanah, and their spiky prey—through a datapage summary. From there, it steps straight into the action as Talanah hunts the clawstriders, with art that leans into a more cartoonish style than the game. Ann Maulina keeps details sparse, focusing instead on the foreground action. There’s an unfinished sketch feeling to the imagery, particularly when characters are shown further away. However, Bryan Valenza’s softer palette choices provide each panel with the necessary polish.

The first issue does not offer much depth to Talanah or her environment, relying on some level of familiarity with the game to entice further reading. Familiarity, and an interest in the hunt for this deadly prey and the opportunity to see Aloy again in the present timeline to find out what she’s been up to as we get ready for Horizon Zero Dawn’s sequel in 2021.