Dark Wraith Of Shannara (Del Rey)

shannara-header.jpgFor the first time ever, Terry Brooks brings his famed fantasy novel series to the comics page.



208 pages. B&W; $13.95

(W: Terry Brooks, Robert Place Napton; A: Edwin David)


Somewhere between the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter novels were a whole slew of fantasy trilogy books. We who enjoyed these books eagerly attacked the paperback rack at the library and local bookstores looking for our next fix of straightforward tales of swords and sorceries written in a very modern and easy to relate to voice. These books especially appealed to us of the fantasy role playing crowd and were often even published by the same companies that published our game master guides and tomes of monsters and magic. We used these stories as fuel to further our own adventures, played out on a kitchen table with some weird shaped dice and paper and pencil. One of the first and best known authors of this modern era of fantasy was Terry Brooks who, through his ongoing series of Shannara trilogies, has written fantasy for over thirty years now.

Brooks’ large body of work is continuing with his first graphic novel, Dark Wraith Of Shannara, a story that takes place after the events of the original Shannara trilogy. Those who are familiar with the original will recognize the main character Jair Ohmsford and his "Wishsong" power. By whistling the Wishsong, Jair can create illusions to help cloak and disguise himself from potential enemies. Early on in this story, however, Jair learns that he can now transform himself into the legendary-yet-deceased great weapons master Garet Jax, another character from the original trilogy. Now that Jair can make this transformation, he no longer has to hide from his enemies, but can face them in numbers and cut them down with his sword. From a graphic novel standpoint, this adds much more visual action for the reader than watching Jair turn invisible.

The cover to The Dark Wraith of Shannara. Click for a larger image.Now, everyone knows that a fantasy tale has to have a quest. In Dark Wraith, Jair is sought out by the shade of Allanon, the now-deceased former High Druid of Shannara. Evil is on the move in Shannara once again, and Allanon needs Jair to rescue the druid Cogline from the sinister Mwellrets, who intend to abstract the secret location of the gates of Paranor, The Druid’s Keep, from Cogline’s brain. If they succeed, they will be able to claim to all the power of these great druids and it will be very dark times for the people of Shannara. Thus, Jair sets out on his journey with the help of a few friends to rescue Cogline.

The most important thing to understand about Dark Wraith Of Shannara is that you do not need to have any previous knowledge of the series to jump right in with this story. Though the novel features previously established characters, Brooks starts the reader off with just enough background to get things going and goes from there without ever looking back. The story is original and complete and covers all the loose ends; there is no reason to rush through a thousand pages of previous stories just to read this graphic novel. Robert Place Napton does an excellent job of adapting the fast-paced adventure to the graphic medium. His dialogue is tight, and though the story is broken up into chapters, the segments maintain a cinematic flow.

Published by Del Rey, Edwin David’s art maintains many of the visual tics one might see in that company’s well-known manga line, but refrains from going overboard with the doe-eyed girls and frail, sharp nosed figures many know as the "manga style." The book’s black and white tones are also a far cry from that seen in most manga, replacing the traditional screentone accents with lush grays that appear as if they were created in full color and then converted to black and white, rather than created strictly with monochrome publishing in mind.

Though the book is listed as 208 pages only 160 of them are actual story. The book does feature some cool behind the scenes features with interview of the talent, a making of feature, and sketch books of the art used in the novel, plus a sample chapter from Brooks’ recent novel The Wishsong of Shannara, making this a very well-rounded product.

The story is a quick read and is great for the teen market. Though any fan of fantasy or Terry Brooks will be happy with the content, some fans of Shannara may not get the same sense of immersion that comes from the original Shannara novels. Most Brooks fans, however, should be delighted in reading new adventures of old favorite characters, and the end of the story definitely preludes to further adventures. | Ryan Parker


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