Why You Should Skip Wolfenstein’s Comic Adaptation
Wolfenstein Volume 1 is a comic collection centered on Wolfenstein II's new character: The Professor. The Professor is a sniper who throws out sassy remarks just as often as she's ejecting rounds from her rifle. She didn't get much screen time during Wolfenstein II so I was excited to read a story dedicated to building her character and expanding the world of MachineGames' take on Wolfenstein, a bleak universe rich with possibility. Unfortunately, Wolfenstein Volume 1 left me feeling disappointed by being a superfluous story rather than something that expands Wolfenstein in an interesting way.
At its core, the latest iteration of Wolfenstein is a fine balance between the zany, pulp sci-fi trappings of previous entries, with demons and Nazi robots running around, and brilliant character development, focusing on a cast of downtrodden people rising up to fight fascism. MachineGames' Wolfenstein is essentially equal parts character drama and high stakes action-adventure, with all of the weird, polarizing tone shifts that go along with it. It's not for everyone, but I adore the series. Unfortunately, Volume 1 leans heavily into the pulpy sci-fi ethos, introducing characters like Emilie, a brilliant scientist and the only other member of the Da'at Yichud we've seen outside of Set Roth. Unfortunately, it also gives them story arcs with no interesting development.
The Professor gets a similar treatment. Though the story is ostensibly about her, it's really not. While there is real estate dedicated to following Emilie and The Professor's attempts to save a resistance hideout, there's a fair amount of time hopping, with the meat of this story being a flashback that focusing on series protagonist BJ Blazkowicz and a younger Emilie. The duo work together to stop yet another castle Wolfenstein that's popped up in the world. While the art for the action sequences, gory and kinetic, is solid, the storytelling is subpar and essentially hits on the same points as Return To Castle Wolfenstein and The Old Blood. There's an infiltration; BJ grumbles a lot; Some nazis die (not a lot, though, surprisingly); And occasionally someone screams 'f--k fascism.' It all feels like a crumpled old hat by now since the series' biggest achievement is exciting, character-driven story beats of both The New Order and The New Colossus. I wanted more time with The Professor, learning about who she is, rather than yet another retread of Wolfenstein 3D.
This volume is not all disappointment though. The art (by Pitor Kowalski and Ronilson Freie) is beautiful and reminiscent of comics from the '80s. I only wish the story was worthy of the treatment. Even as a series mega fan, invested in every inch of that world, I came away disappointed in Wolfenstein's comic adaptation. If you played The New Order and The New Colossus, and you're looking for more from that universe, you're probably better off just playing one of the older titles like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, The Old Blood, or checking out the promising world-building that The New Colossus' DLC is doing.