A lot of the things that today we take for granted in epic fantasy wouldn’t really exist if it wasn’t for Dungeons & Dragons four decades ago. Sure, the genre has existed for much longer and J. R. R. Tolkien gave rise to many of the staples and tropes of the genre, but D&D basically revolutionized the genre, and here we are in 2014, where that one tabletop RPG has spawned countless comics, video games, novels, and ever more expansions, even a couple of movies. And this is the year for the 40th celebration of Dungeons & Dragons, so it makes sense that Wizards of the Coast would do something special for that anniversary.
And one of the many ways in which the celebration begins is by a new Dungeons & Dragons comic, Legends of Baldur’s Gate, written by popular fantasy writer Jim Zub. Jim, who also writes Dynamite’s Pathfinder and IDW’s Samurai Jack tie-in comics, among many other titles, delivers a really easy-going, cheeky and fun story in Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1, creating an interesting mystery of missing siblings and magic gone haywire. Max Dunbar’s visuals are also very impressive though a bit simplistic at times, but all things considered, this was definitely an aces issue.
Jim is a writer who can easily switch between humour and grim, evident in the titles he has put out in the last year. He has tackled everyone from DC’s Amanda Waller to IDW’s Samurai Jack to Dynamite’s Pathfinder and his latest series Wayward, from Image. In Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1, he goes for the humour, and the results are quite fantastic. Delina is a moon elf, and also a wild mage who is rather clumsy with her magic. The way she bumbles around with her magic reminds me of this one character from He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of The Sword who liked quite a bit, Madame Razz. She was an accomplished witch but as clumsy with it as Jim’s Delina here. Backfiring magic can be rather fun to read, and under Jim’s pen, it reads much better than you’d expect.
The other protagonist, equally hilarious though for different reasons, is Minsc, a warrior with a mighty hamster pet, Boo. Soon as Minsc makes his appearance, you know that you in for a ride since his dialogue is pretty damn awesome, showing a softer side to a tough warrior. Some would call it a cliche, but I call it genius. And fun. Too often we get to see these serious, baddass types in fantasy, especially in comics, so seeing something different is a huge bonus.
Like I said, the dialogue here is pretty good. Jim captures the essence of both characters and gives the reader an idea of what they are both like, and what we can expect from them. The highlight of the issue definitely has to be Minsc’s pet hamster Boo. He doesn’t do anything really, but just his presence adds an element of excitement to the story, making it that much more palatable for an easy-going audience.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this title when I picked it up to read, but it has definitely been a blast to read. Most of it just deals with Delina and Minsc meeting up and their subsequent adventures in Baldur’s Gate, so the larger plot is quite thin here, but that’s fine since there is ample hijinks to keep you interested and the twist at the end throws you for a loop, creating a nice cliffhanger that assures you are going to want to tune in again next month, and I’ll say that I’m definitely very interested in seeing how things pan out.
Max Dunbar is the artist here, with colours by John-Paul Bove and letters by Neil Uyetake. The bold and colourful artwork matches well with Jim’s script and is also very appealing too. The comical expressions on Delina and Minsc’s faces really help sell the humour of the script, and the magic scenes are also handled very nicely. And the hamster Boo is just too cute for words… so yeah. The art is overall very energetic, particularly since a lot of it revolves around either Delina running from a bunch of monsters or Minsc fighting them off, so there’s that too.
A damn good start for sure.
More Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague.