I’ve been looking forward to the new D&D comic book series since the preview issue #0 came out a few months back. Issue #1 finally hit comic shops last month, and it’s taken me this long to review it because the first print run sold out before I could buy one. That bodes well for a fun series that I hope lasts many, many issues.
To be totally accurate, the sold-out status doesn’t necessarily connote sales levels akin to those commonly ascribed to the humble hot cake. As my friendly neighborhood comic store retailer pointed out to me, they weren’t sure how many issues to order because it can be very difficult to gauge audience interest in fantasy comics. It turns out they undershot a little bit.
The series’ writer is John Rogers, whom I have raved about in the past as creator of one of my favorite TV shows, Leverage. He brings sharp, witty dialogue and a clear, easy to follow story line, even when it takes unexpected twists and turns. And when I say witty, I mean freaking hilarious. It’s pretty damn rare for a comic book to make me literally laugh out loud, and this one did several times. My favorite exchange:
Khal the Dwarf: These tunnels look natural, but it be cunning disguise. Every seam hand-polished away. Dwarven work.
Varis the Elf: Amazing how everything good is Dwarven work. “This sword be flawless with magnificent detail. Dwarven work. These pastries be fluffy and filled with delicious custard. Dwarven work.”
Khal: First, you’d be lucky to taste a Dwarven pastry. Second…pit trap (as Varis falls into said pit trap).
The story revolves around a mercenary named Adric Fell and his band of hired adventurers in Fallcrest. The local magistrate seems to tolerate their presence (barely), but leaking shadow magic from the Shadowfell starts turning people into temporary mindless zombies. There’s a flaming zombie orphanage and even an undercurrent of romantic subplot. The group will no doubt have to travel into the Shadowfell some time soon to stem the evil tide.
The characters are all archetypical fantasy types — halfling rogue, tiefling sorcerer, elf ranger, etc. I understand that this is intentional and part of Wizards’ plan to introduce some core characters and flesh out the core Nentir Vale setting, but I wish they were a little less archetypical. Still, I’m sure Rogers will handle them well and keep them from being as one-dimensional as you might expect.
The art by Andrea Di Vito is solid. It’s crisp and conveys action very well. Some will complain that it’s “cartoonish,” but I think it fits the tone of the comic perfectly. While I’ve gone on record as not minding a bit of gratuitous cheesecake in RPG books and comics, the busty tiefling seems a bit over the top (so to speak) at times.
Thankfully, overt gaming themes are not expressed within the story. No one’s running around going, “Use your daily powers, we can extended rest at the inn!” But it looks like we’ll be getting 4E character sheets for the main cast eventually. This issue gives us Adric himself, a 7th level fighter.
I can’t wait for issue #2, and I’m even a bit more excited about the Dark Sun series starting up next year.