Dungeons & Dragons #1 (IDW Publishing)

John Rogers (Blue Beetle) and Andrea DiVito (Nova) revive the classic RPG in comic book form.

28 pgs. full color; $3.99
(W: John Rogers; A: Andrea DiVito)
I’ll admit up front I’m not necessarily the most qualified guy to write this review: pen and paper role-playing games are one of the few nerdly pastimes I’ve never participated in. That being said, I’ve at least orbited around Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons mega-franchise, having watched the classic 1980s “we’re a bunch of modern kids who rode a rollercoaster into a strange fantasy world” cartoon and read a big chunk of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance novels, not to mention I’ve read more than my fair share of fantasy comics.
The press release informs me that this eponymous series takes place in the D&D core world, where a newly-formed adventuring party—led by the scruffy, man’s-man warrior named Adric Fell—plans their next adventure at a local tavern only to be interrupted by a tribe of zombies bursting through the floor. The team begins to hack and slash, only to discover that the zombiism was merely a passing possession and it now looks (to the authorities, at least) that Adric and company murdered these people in cold blood. This leads to a swift trial that ends abruptly when the “Shadow” behind the possession takes over the courtroom. Our heroes make their escape with the help of wizard Copernicus Jinx, and head off to get to the bottom of this mystery.
If you’ve ever read a fantasy comic, you pretty much know what to expect here. This is the standard D&D party here—a handsome warrior with a sword, a cocky elf with a bow and arrow, a gruff dwarf with an axe, a thief, and a mysterious spellcaster that no one quite trusts—being run through a not particularly original plot. This comic is standard by-the-numbers fantasy stuff, but for that, it’s at least well made. Writer John Rogers (creator and producer of the TNT TV series Leverage and the original writer of the latest incarnation of DC’s Blue Beetle) has a good handle on the archetypes, and a knack for a good quip (especially in the back-and-forth between Varis the elf and Kahl the Ghimli-esque dwarf). Andrea DiVito is a solid artist whose style is a bit of a throwback to the 1980s, when artists like Ron Frenz and Ron Lim filled superhero comics with characters that were realistic but stylized instead of the overly photo-referenced look so present today. Rogers makes an odd choice in throwing in an in media res first page that ruins what could have been a fun surprise later in the book, but otherwise the book is a solid effort all around. Add in the bonus feature (a character sheet for Adric, with the rest of the cast assumedly appearing in future issues) and it’s easy to see the book’s appeal to diehard gamers.
Make no mistake: this comic doesn’t exactly break new ground, and will likely hold little appeal to those who aren’t already fans of the sword-and-sorcery genre in general and D&D in particular. But fans of the franchise (or of Dynamite’s Red Sonja series, which strikes a similar tone) will likely be perfectly satisfied, if not quite blown away. | Jason Green

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