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‘Dragonlance Classics Volume 3:’ TPB Review

A time when Krynn was young.

Well, at least our adventure that is.  Weiss and Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles was one of my earliest introductions to the fantasy genre and, surprisingly, into Dungeons & Dragons as well. (I’m certainly one to pull from great source material to build campaign quests, but when an encounter is pulled straight from a book, it makes it hard to play it truthfully when you know the monks you meet on the road are actually Darconians in disguise.)  IDW is now publishing collections of DC’s late ’80s series based off of those novels and the world itself.  Starring Riva Silverblade, the series focuses on the times following the War of the Lance and beyond, as we are treated to Riva in three major points in her life.  We see her bond forged with a young Bronze Dragon, her saying goodbye to that dragon in combat many years later, and just two years after the War when another continent found itself wanting of knowledge of the gods.

The series had a few different writers, but the tone remains strictly bound throughout as is typical of licensed properties.  The stories within were creative and fun, though at times the dialogue was a bit stilted.  The storylines are interesting to see used in this run, as the aged Riva tells two children about an ancient Knight of Somalia, giving us a flashback of epic adventures.  In the younger story, she winds up in the nest of a Bronze Dragon well before the War of the Lance and her courage and mettle are put to the test.  In the final issues contained within, she is thrust into an adventure by old Fizban (who surprisingly is quite open about his true being) that mirrors how Tanis and company began their great quest years before, with a small group willing to bring word of the gods to the people and standing before long odds to do so.  I’m very quickly reminded of how new the D&D worlds were at the time, when in these issues every character under 4′ is automatically a gnome.  A gnome thief mentions Uncle Trapspringer (which is a Kender thing) and an ill-tempered gnome calls to Reorx, the Dwarven god.  It’s fun to see the early steps that fantasy literature and art took in those days.

Speaking of the art, these issues look as though they came from the four-color newspaper pages.  The style is quite similar to Prince Valiant which makes sense to convey the epic style of the content within with a style that folks would be used to.  The combat sequences are a touch simpler than what we are used to today, but they still carry the action well and there are some rather entertaining panels, especially when the dragons get involved.  There’s a nostalgic quality to these pages, even though it’s my first time seeing them.  It feels like a mix between the old read-along-with-a-cassette books and old Superfriends episodes, lacking in polish but making up for it in bravado and chutspah.

Dragonlance fans will absolutely love this collection, and any tabletop gamer worth his or her D20s will find some goodies within.  It’s crazy to think of how new and different this time was, when Gygax was still rolling about Greyhawk and the church was protecting kids from the likes of THAC0.  If you’ve seen them before or just want to know what the time was like, this is a collection for you.

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