By Kristine Chester, Guest Contributor to Fanboy Comics
When you hear the words “Dungeons & Dragons” and “comic” together in a sentence, it probably conjures images of generic fantasy comic X or maybe the all-so-cheesy 1980s D&D cartoon in comic form, neither of which is correct. That’s not to say Dungeons & Dragons isn’t silly at times. Zombie orphans, orc kissing, and many really bad plans are all in this comic, but the writer, John Rogers, manages to make these scenes endearing and funny instead of groan worthy.
As anyone familiar with Rogers’ TV show, Leverage, knows, he’s very good at writing the dynamics of a team. Dungeons & Dragons follows a party of adventurers, Fell’s Five, including Adric, the group’s leader, Bree a slightly-psychotic halfling thief, Khal, a Dwarven paladin, Varis, an elf scout, and Tisha, a Tiefling warlock. While all of these characters embody clichés of the fantasy genre and the standard tabletop RPG adventuring party, each character has moments throughout the first six issues that show they are more than just their archetypes. Khal was once a Dwarven poet known for his rebellious verses and love poems, Tisha has a vengeance complex that would make Inigo Montoya proud, and Bree is… well, Bree is the sort of backstabbing, lovable rogue that’s annoying in an RPG group but vastly entertaining in comic form. The relationships between the characters is equally as rewarding. Khal and Varis bicker as only a dwarf and an elf can, but without it feeling like a second helping of Legolas and Gimli, which as fans of the genre know, is quite an undertaking.
While Dungeons & Dragons can be enjoyed as a generic fantasy comic, it shines for people who are familiar with the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games. The characters inhabit a world that has to work with these game mechanics, and while terms like critical hits, +2 swords, or anything that cheesy are never mentioned, the curtain is peeled back in a few places, answering such questions like how is there breathable air in underground dungeons that have been sealed for centuries?
I’m also a fan of the design of the volume, Shadowplague, which collects the first six issues in a binding the size, shape, and design of current D&D 4e rulebooks. The volume also includes two D&D adventures written by Rogers, artist Andrew Di Vito, Bill Slavicsek, and DM extraordinaire Chris Perkins, which actually put the events of the comic in an adventure module for potential use. The first few individual issues also gave the stats for Fell’s Five, settling potentially dozens of forum arguments over which Daily Powers Varis has or what level the party is. While these things are treats to the RPG players who read the comic, they are fluff added to a fantasy story filled with humor, character depth, and many really bad plans.