Dark Horse Comics and Ubisoft are teaming up once more for a gritty and high-action adventure within Tom Clancy's The Division universe with Extremis Malis. With The Division 2 hype continuing to grow, we spoke with series writer Christofer Emgård about the latest story while also reflecting back on The Division franchise as a whole.
The first issue of Extremis Malis did a phenomenal job at keeping pace with the franchise as a whole, but even still -- crafting something new can be both exhilarating and scary.
When asked what it was like crafting a new adventure in the middle of all of the excited fanfare regarding the game's sequel, the writer touched on the rewarding struggle that accompanied making a new tale that feels both familiar and fresh at the same time.
"It’s great to see so many people hyped about the upcoming game," says Emgård. "The main challenge for me has been to craft a story that feels fresh and expands upon the Division world, while still staying true to what the games are about, who the Division Agents are, etc. Having worked on both games as a writer definitely helped, and it’s actually been quite liberating to be able to tell a pure story within that world, free of the constraints often placed upon the narrative by gameplay, art and so on."
The new comic series certainly seems to be in good hands. Emgård is intimately familiar with how the structure of the gaming franchise works and the overall premise given that he's worked on the first title and its sequel.
"I was the Lead Writer for a few years on the original Division," he explains, "and had a part in creating the premise around the Green Poison pandemic and the sleeper agents of the Divison - but I left Ubisoft Massive just before the game went into full production. Then I returned as a freelancer in 2017 to work on the narrative for the Division 2, and soon after I was asked if I wanted to write the comic."
Folks that play games can be a very vocal community, and in recent narratives in video games have become more and more complex in recent years. With layered storylines and intricate characters, creating a comic series that is cohesive with a pre-existing video game franchise can be tough work.
According to Emgård, the biggest difference between developing a game-based comic versus other topics "is to respect the game and its cosmology." He adds that "other media should add to the game world, but they shouldn’t subvert it, or the audience's expectations of it (unless that would serve a specific purpose)."
Additionally, he believes in trying "to convey some of the main gameplay experience as well, whether that would be doing parkour on the rooftops as in Assassin’s Creed, or getting engaged in intense street-level firefights as in The Division."
He also touched on the expectation factor from fans. How can you satisfy the fans while also not watering down the original vision? "You have an existing fanbase out there with all kinds of expectations," Emgård says, "all of whom you want to do your best to satisfy while not diluting whatever it is you’re trying to do. It can be a tricky balancing act sometimes."
WARNING: For those that have yet to check out the new comic series, mild spoilers ahead.
In the comic series, Division Agent Caleb Dunne sees his partner get brutally murdered, and his quest is to find the woman responsible. The inspiration behind this was to align the newest story with the basic principle of the series.
"On the most basic level the Extremis Malis story is about what it means to be a Division Agent," says Emgård. "How do you hold on to your beliefs and morals when everything falls apart around you? These are extraordinary people, the best of the best, but they are also ultimately human - and I find that contrast extremely interesting from a storytelling perspective."
With so many apocalyptic narratives out there, one thing that sets The Division apart is that it's not about the story after, but instead the story of during. The events that caused all of those other stories of barren wastelands and hostile unknown territories is happening now, and the reader of Extremis Malis is thrust into these intense scenarios of desperation, survival, and duty.
"We are arguably moving more toward 'post' as the franchise evolves, but it’s not all gone quite yet," Emgård notes, "and your job as an Agent is to save and restore what’s left of a society that was fully functioning just a few months ago."
Being in the middle of things is what makes this series so exciting, and the creative team couldn't be more thrilled with what's to come and just how it connects to the upcoming sequel. "Readers will encounter things not seen in either game, and they will also learn things connected to the larger narrative surrounding The Division 2," he teases. "I’m very excited to see what reactions and speculations will result from that!"
There's an all-star team at the helm of this upcoming project with Christofer Emgard (The Whispering Dark, Mirror's Edte, Exordium) tagged as the writer, Fernando Baldo (Deep Gravity, Thief) as the artist, and Michael Atiyeh (Conan the Avenger, Green Lantern: Rebirth) as the colorist. The stylized cover art was also helmed by the talented J.P. Leon from DMZ and Static.0comments
For fans of the intense survival world given to us by Tom Clancy, Extremis Malis aims to take that narrative even further. Here's how Dark Horse describes the book: "Months after a bioweapon attack devastated New York City, the Division agents are the last hope of a United States struggling to hold itself together. During a mission gone wrong, Division Agent Caleb Dunne's partner is gruesomely killed and Dunne vows to track down the mysterious woman responsible. As he gathers clues to her wherabouts, he uncovers a grave threat to a nation already on the brink of total collapse."
The first issue for The Division: Extremis Malis goes on sale today! The promising new adventure is available now at major retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and others. It should also be available at your local comic shop as well.