Neil Druckmann, the writer behind The Last Of Us, has now released A Second Chance At Sarah, his first original graphic novel, through Dark Horse. If you liked The Last Of Us — and of course you did, everybody does — then you really owe it to yourself to seek out A Second Chance At Sarah, which is just as emotional, dramatic and (at times) humorous as the Naughty Dog game, and you won’t have to wait two or three years for development and debugging.
Johnny isn’t having the best of days. He’s holding his first newborn baby in his arms, but his wife just died in childbirth. That’s the way it goes, but then he finds an old amulet and evidence that, a long time ago, Sarah made a deal with a demon in exchange for….something, and the end result was she was fated to die here. As the story begins, Johnny is sent back in time, inside his seventeen-year-old body. He has one day to re-meet Sarah, find out what would drive her to sell her soul, and stop her from doing it. Of course, to accomplish time-travel he has to make his OWN deal with the demon, so is there really any way out?
If this wasn’t enough emotional weight…to do what he has to do, he’s now meeting his wife one month before he originally did, and he might not charm her a second time. If he messes up his past, he might change his present. Maybe Sarah will live, but his own son, which he just held for the first time, will cease to exist. Can Johnny save the lives of his wife, his baby, and if possible, himself?
To sum it up for the paragraph skimmers: imagine if One More Day was written by someone with a brain. And it had a more satisfying ending.
The bulk of the book takes place in the past, in 1995 — which, thankfully, they establish with a simple remark and not with “Flannel! Flannel! Alanis Cher Horowitz Flannel!!” If there’s anything about Johnny’s situation that will help him, it’s that he knows Sarah better than anyone else in the universe (well, he thought he did until he found that amulet) and he knows just how to talk to her. On the other hand, his emotional connection can also get in his way, such as when he sees Sarah fending off unwanted advancements from an ex-boyfriend. The previous him would have thought “poor girl, but oh well, better to not get pummelled.” The Johnny from 2014 thinks, “THAT’S MY WIFE YOU BASTARD I’LL KILL YOU I’LL RIP YOU TO SHREDS ARGGAHAARGGHAAAH!”
The art is rendered in digital oil paint by Joysuke Wong, an artist from Hong Kong. It comes off as rough and sketchy, but still pretty to look at, and it fits the emotional tone of the story being told. There is a “pinup gallery” in the back that features the story’s characters drawn by different artists, and the more professional, polished takes on them don’t look quite as fitting as Wong’s art.
One of the best things about The Last Of Us was the writing, and this plot is even better. From just reading the brief synopsis you have to know what happens. So the big question is, why didn’t Druckmann save this idea for a game? Well, it’s most likely that no AAA studio would pay to have it made, because at no point in the story do you have to shoot anyone.
It’s also short. This is the one downside of A Second Chance At Sarah: you can finish it in the time it takes to cook a meal, and due to the way it sucks you in, pacing yourself is impossible. It’s over before you know it, but those ten minutes were great enough to make the $15 worth it to me.
Dark Horse had previously published the Last of Us tie-in GN “American Dreams,” a prequel about Ellie (it takes place before the DLC chapter), so they already had a working relationship. Druckmann was never forced to make another graphic novel. He was never even approached or asked to create one. He just got a really good idea for one, and worked on it whenever he had time away from his “real” job makin’ games. Let’s hope the inspiration strikes him again someday, and that we haven’t seen the last of Druckmann’s work in the comic book market.