Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to another review!

Okay, so some quick housekeeping:

First, I am done with taking notes for the sporking of City of Glass. Cue the music, pop the champagne, and light the fireworks!

On second thought, don’t do that last one. I have my reasons.

Anyway, yes, I’m finally finished reading the third and what should have been final book in the Mortal Instruments series. I honestly thought I’d have finished it weeks ago, but then, through a combination of dealing with other issues and general laziness, I somehow managed to drag out the process until almost the end of October. But in my defense, the book is just terrible. Especially the end; I got through every chapter of the book in one go, but it took me three sessions to get through the epilogue. It was just that frustrating and boring.

And because of how utterly exhausting that was, I’m taking November off. I’m going to be trying to do NaNoWriMo (I’m going to try using the Pomodoro Technique – look it up – to reach my word count), but hopefully I’ll be getting to the sporking some time in December.

But I don’t want to go completely radio-silent, so I’m going to crank out a couple of reviews to post throughout November. And I have a theme for them, too – all the works will have some connection to the world’s favorite role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons.

(Yes, I’m a huge nerd. I know.)

So, first up, we have the official (if not creatively named) IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons. And not just one volume, but the entire thing.

Blurb from Vol. 1: Shadowplague, courtesy of “Comixology:”: https://www.comixology.com/Dungeons-Dragons-Vol-1-Shadowplague/digital-comic/21166?ref=c2VyaWVzL3ZpZXcvZGVza3RvcC9ncmlkTGlzdC9Db2xsZWN0ZWRFZGl0aW9ucw

Collects DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 0-5!
Beginning a new era in Dungeons & Dragons history! The genre-defining roleplaying game gets its first ongoing series in years! Join writer John Rogers (Blue Beetle) and artist Andrea Di Vito (Annihilation) as they bring us a tale of high adventure and deep secrets. Adric Fell leads a band of heroes in a world where civilization has been reduced to a few scattered points of light amid a rising tide of shadows.

Not a lot of detail, I know, but it gives you the general set up.

So, some history: in 2008, Wizards of the Coast released the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Reactions were mixed, to put it lightly. There were a lot of changes between 3.5 and 4. Two new core races were added (Tiefling and Dragonborn), and one removed (Gnome). The class system was re-vamped, with four general categories of class (defender, controller, leader, and striker), with two new classes added to the core rules (warlord and warlock), and several removed (barbarian, bard, druid, sorcerer, and monk). The mechanics got a major overhaul, with every class being given certain powers or abilities that could be used one a day, once per encounter, or at-will. The core level cap was raised to 30, and instead of selecting a prestige class, characters to choose a “paragon path” at 11th level, and an “epic destiny” at 21st. Alignment was paired down from 9 to 5 (LG-G-N-E-CE), and the set up of the planes was also simplified.

Most of the flack, from what I’ve gathered, is that the system was too “game-y.” The powers/ability systems were too much like something out of an MMO, the class categories made people mad (even though it’s basically incorporating terms everyone already uses). There were probably also complaints about certain classes not being included in the core rulebooks, but I honestly don’t want to go delving into the sludge to find out.

But the big thing that I liked about 4th Edition was the default setting, the Points of Light, or as it later came to be known, Nentir Vale.

Reading the books (my first actual set of D&D books, which might partially explain my soft-spot for the system), I got the feeling that WotC really wanted to give the DMs a basic framework to build their own world in. There are a few details provided – the name of the now-fallen human empire, the existence of ancient warring Tiefling and Dragonborn empires, a pantheon consisting of gods from various settings, and a map of the Nentir Vale itself, but that was it.

I liked this, because every other setting for D&D was – and in my opinion, still are – too well-defined. There are maps of the Forgotten Realms, and Greyhawk, and Eberron, and every other published setting. Some of the published settings are older than I am, if they don’t date back to the origins of D&D. They’d been mapped, and charted, and explored in exhausting detail. If you’re playing in any of these settings and ask the DM, “what’s beyond the edge of the map?” instead of going, “I don’t know, let’s find out,” the DM can pick up a book and hand it to you, and you can find your answer there. There’s no real opportunity to improvise, no chance to create a world of their own.

But let’s get back to the comic.

Just as most of the big settings had books detailing their world, they also had works of fiction set within them, whether it be comic books, novels, or even video games. The IDW comic series was the only such work to take place in the Nentir Vale setting.

The series – naturally – focuses on a group of adventurers, Fell’s Five: Adric Fell, a human fighter; Varis, a wood elf ranger; Khal Khalundurrin, a dwarf paladin; Bree Three-Hands, a Halfling rouge; and Tisha Swornheart, a Tiefling warlock.

What I love about this series is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; the characters will crack jokes. To quote the series’ “TVTropes page,”: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Comicbook/DungeonsAndDragons the series, “often reads as much like as a bunch of creative players playing their characters as it does an actual story.”

In short, it’s just a flat-out fun read.

Which is what makes the next part so depressing. The series ran for a total of 16 issues, ending its run very suddenly in February of 2012. You can tell the decision was sudden from a few facts. There are plot lines that are set up, but never developed. We get a brief flashback showing how three of the protagonists meet (and actually get to see how the party met Tisha), but nothing else. There are hints at characters’ back stories that are only ever just hints. Finally, the last issue ends with a teaser for the next adventure – if that doesn’t mean there were plans for more, I don’t know what is.

Still, I’m grateful that at least some of the story got to be told. And the entire series is available on Comixology, so you can pick it up for yourself.

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Comment

  1. Juracan on 6 November 2017, 23:28 said:

    In short, it’s just a flat-out fun read.

    Well that’s good, because with final term papers and NaNoWriMo and applications, I could sure do with a fun fantasy comic book read. It’s sad to hear they’re discontinued, but alas, that’s a thing that happens to a lot of great serieses and it’s important to enjoy what has been released.

    I’ll try to pick these up some time soonish.

  2. Apep on 7 November 2017, 01:15 said:

    Well, the digital version of the trades are about $10 each, so you won’t be breaking the bank if you only get one.

    Reading the series again, the sudden end got me a little depressed. I kinda hope the writer made a lot of notes and outlines, and that he either still has them, or released them to the public once the series was cancelled.