Today’s omnibus takes us through three connected stories that form one long quest, much like Lord of the Rings. The tale follows three characters from the games: Alistair, king of the nation of Ferelden; Isabel, a pirate queen from Antiva; and Varrick, a dwarf with a handy crossbow and a penchant for stories. Alistair leads the trio through three adventures on a quest to find his missing father, King Maric, who disappeared at sea thirteen years prior, in an effort to lift some of the burden off of the young King’s shoulders. But the land of Thedas is not made for easy adventuring as they must contend with assassins, qunari zealots, mad mages, and oh yes, dragons.
One of the best aspects of the Dragon Age series (and BioWare games as a whole) is the writing, and that definitely applies to this comic. The three characters complement each other perfectly, and their dialogue is positively electric. They’re so developed that all you really need to do is put them together and the story writes itself. Each one gets to narrate a different story and some new secret of theirs gets uncovered, fleshing them out for fans and newcomers alike.
Praise has to be lauded to the art too, fitting right in with the setting. It’s not as polished as to be a Victorian masterpiece, but not as rough as to be sketchwork, which perfectly matches the tone of this dark fantasy. It also allows them to go into… visceral detail during the battles. Yes, something else carried over from the games is the bloody violence that was meant to show how grim and serious things are. It doesn’t go into Saw levels of gore, but the fighting has a bit more red matter than most comics.
Ultimately, a tie-in comic has to be able to stand on its own and be accessible to those outside of the fanbase. In that regard, I consider this one of the best licensed comics I’ve ever seen. As someone who has played Dragon Age: Origins to the end but hasn’t started Dragon Age II or Dragon Age: Inquisition, I put down the book having understood everything that happened. There was enough exposition to give things context, but it didn’t crowd out the more important parts of the story. The nods to events in the games were subtle and unobtrusive, just as a nod or reference should be. Most importantly, it reveals new things that are new to both fans and newcomers, making it one of the most accessible and well-written comics I’ve read.
Dragon Age speaks to many people through its games, its rich lore, and now its comics. This played on my heartstrings like a mandolin as BioWare stories tend to do. If I could recommend one book the highest in this year of my reviewing career, let it be volume one of the Dragon Age Omnibus. I have no doubt that a lot of people will get into the games through this. In fact, maybe I should put in some play time now...