Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons #3 Review

Out, Damned Spot!

Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Nelson Daniel and Neil Uyetake
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 13, 2016
Publisher: IDW

I have really enjoyed the start of this new Dungeons and Dragons tale and not just because I am a huge Minsc and Boo fan...okay, that does help a whole lot, but there is more to it as well.  Jim Zub and Nelson Daniel are putting together a comic book that also feels like a D&D adventure that I would have loved to play as a kid and makes me want to get the dice bag out as an adult.  It's not all about the crazy locales, hideous monsters and over the top action that some comics of this ilk have resorted to, but the main focus has been on the characters and their interactions.  If you have ever played D&D ,you know that's what it's all about.  Heck, I spent days just making up characters with intricate back stories and character sketches with no intent of ever using them in a campaign and when me and my buddies got down to playing, some of the best times we had were just the group hanging out in a tavern just talking.  That said, it's always fun to slay some hideous beast in a gloomy, haunted forest with a glowing +2 dagger of venom!  All this leads back to Jim Zub's book which has grabbed my attention and made me smile every time I've read it.  So, does that continue with this issue?  Let's find out...

The issue opens with a very ominous narration that gives the reader a little foothold of where our heroes are and the dangers they are about to face.  It also shows that no matter what people do and where they end up, there is one constant...alcohol!  I am not a drinker myself, but I can tell you that if I found myself living in the living hell that is Ravenloft, I'd be the first to grab the nearest bottle!

What I'm talking about is the manor and vineyard of our parties new friend, Adrian.  Remember, he's the guy they saved last issue from being totally killed by ghouls and now he is repaying them by bringing them to his home for a little rest and relaxation.  There is one problem, however...Adrian's father.

The guy is a grumpy, old coot who has no time for introductions, especially with the riff raff that Adrian has brought to his front door.  Now, I'll agree that most of the party is a shady lot, but Boo deserves better!  Anyway, the old man agrees to let them sleep in the stables and I think that is beyond generous.  They are in Ravenloft, you know.  Who is to say that each member of the party isn't going to be compelled to just start chocking each other out in the middle of some mysterious...wait a minute, I'm getting ahead of myself.

After they settle into the stables, we get a shred of a plan going forward, but really, everyone is just exhausted and wants to sleep.  Well, almost everyone.  Nerys is praying to Kelemvor when Minsc and Boo interrupt her.  It's not an important scene in the grand scheme of things, but it is an example of the character interaction I spoke of above and again, put a smile on my face.

Jim Zub than lets us look in at what is going on with the big bads of the story.  The werewolves are busy sorting out matters amongst themselves, when Sangin (the evil warlock) arrives with a slightly different look thanks to Count Strahd.  Guess what that means!  It means that shit just got real, that's what that means!!!  After seeing the price for going against Strahd (and possibly setting up an unlikely ally for our party), we head back to Minsc and company.

The main act of this issue is devoted to showing the reader just how evil a place like Ravenloft can be and goes back to the beginning narration.  Evil is afoot and can sense where to attack in order to push our heroes into insanity.  Poor Delina and Krydle have some baggage that they obviously can't get rid of and these skeletons come out of the closet and cause some real pain and suffering in the here and now.  It's a cool scene that is a whole lot of Macbeth and a whole lot of awesome.  

The issue ends with the party leaving the manor to continue their adventure.  They receive a gift that I hope comes into play down the line, but the best part is seeing the juxtaposition of the group's misery and Minsc's hearty and enthusiastic attitude.  It makes me laugh every time!

This issue was definatley a setup/bridge issue to get a couple of things sorted out before moving on to the next stage of the journey.  However, that doesn't mean it is not a necessary read.  Zub sets up a pretty major change in the evil chasing our party and shows (in a nice way) that our heroes aren't exactly as steel willed as we might have thought.  In fact, this sets up a couple of potential major problems coming down the pike.  I told you in my introduction that I loved the times in a D&D campaign where the characters just sit around, getting to know each other and this issue was like that.  Granted, it's the reader that is getting to know the characters and I really enjoyed it.  I want to know more about each and every character (including the big bads) and I welcome issues like this with open arms.

I really can't say enough about Nelson Daniel's art in this issue and the series.  It's cartoony enough to make me wish he was working on an updated D&D cartoon show and dark and gloomy enough to make the threats that face the party believable.  Like the story, it's all about the characters and Nelson's character models are kick ass!  

Bits and Pieces:

I love this series so much!  To a comic book reader, this issue may seem like a lot of setup, but for a D&D fan, this type of issue is just as important as slaying a dragon.  The downtime in a D&D campaign is all about character interaction and development and that's exactly what Jim Zub gives us here.  Couple that with the excellent art by Nelson Daniel and this is an issue and a series that every fantasy fan should grab right now!


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