Whether you’re into role playing games or not, the Pathfinder comic is worth checking out. However, if you are into fantasy pen and paper gaming, the benefits extend beyond the actual comic.
I stumbled upon the now month-old Pathfinder comic last week while browsing through digital comics on Comixology.com. I don’t think I knew there was a Pathfinder comic, and I was a bit hesitant. Last spring, I picked up one of the Dungeons & Dragons comics, and while I didn’t think it was terrible, it wasn’t terribly great either. On top of that, Ed’s own review of the Forgotten Realms comic here on Robot Viking scared me away from that book entirely. The only fantasy comic I have been able to get into in the least bit since reading The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian magazines from the grocery store in the early 90s is Demon Knights from DC Comics last year.
Pathfinder has not disappointed me yet, so I gave the comic, written by Jim Zub and published by Dynamite, the benefit of the doubt. I’m glad I did.
Issue #1 begins with the heroes in the middle of a pitched battle. Over the course of four pages we learn all we really need to know about the party. Fantasy and even super hero comic books have the benefit of the ability to rely on archetypes initially and potentially deviate from them later on as we get to know the characters. Since I’m a patient reader, I think that’s a smart move as long as Zub continues to develop the characters and their relationships. Curveballs are only surprising if I’ve grown to expect fastballs. In a genre full of sloppy curves, the courage to throw fastballs is nice to see.
The rest of the issue (22 pages in all) deals with some R&R for the party and their investigation into the local goblin menace. A few new party members are introduced, and one potential member. It ends with a suitable cliffhanger, and I found myself wondering at the nature of the problem facing the party.
Beyond the story, the art is well done. Andrew Huerta and Ross Campbell team up to draw and color every armor stud, every tattoo and every spec of vomit in suitably gritty detail. There is a time for elegance in fantasy, and there’s a time for dull and brown and muddy. The art team recognizes this perfectly without resorting to Skyrim’s extremes (why can’t I make a character not covered in mud and dirt?) and manages to contrast the backwater village with an idyllic, natural scene that reminds us that there is beauty even in the armpits of the world. Yes, even you, New Jersey, have beautiful spots. So I am told.
Story and art aside, the real twist in the comic, the surprise ending, the “oh my god what is this” moment came after the story was done. I turned the page and my eyes fell upon the words “Sandpoint Gazetteer.” The last dozen or so pages of the book consist of an overview of Sandpoint (the backwater village where the comic takes place), several quest hooks for your home campaign, and statblocks for each of the heroes of the story, accompanied by a brief biography or character summary. All in all, this was unexpected, useful, and sweet.
Back in June, Robot Viking writer Joe Grabianowski, in his review of Dave Gross’s book Master of Devils, suggested including a link to a pdf with information or character sheets as an interesting bonus in Pathfinder-specific novels. Dynamite has included all of that right in the comic, which, in this reviewer’s opinion, is a great reward. I really hope they keep it up in future issues.
An interesting read, very well done, appropriate art, and a scoop of fluff n’crunch for my home campaign all combined to encourage me to buy the actual hard copy (which comes with a small poster/battle map!), as well as the next issue of Pathfinder the comic when it comes out. The initial issue starts off great and I hope the comic creative team is able to keep it up.