Minecraft is a, or perhaps the, survival crafting game that rose to absolute stardom starting around 2010. From its humble origins, it spawned conventions, spinoffs, novels, Netflix shows, and pretty much everything else you can imagine. I, like a lot of people who were a little older when Minecraft hit center stage, didn't really dig into the narrative-focused Minecraft stuff like Minecraft: Story Mode released by Telltale Games back in 2015. Minecraft: Volume 1 is my first step into this larger world outside of the original game.
Our adventure this time around follows Tyler and his friends - Evan, Candace, Tobi, and Grace. Tyler has recently moved to a new city but stays in contact with his old friends on their Minecraft server. The group decides to undertake the "ultimate quest" by traveling to the endgame of Minecraft, appropriately named The End, and defeating the dragon that lives there.
Graley's style is in full force in this book which lifts the otherwise solid story to an even higher level. The faces are just so expressive, and the round, pleasant style gives some much needed softness to Minecraft's hard, cubic world. Character designs are also extremely unique and easy for younger readers to differentiate at a glance. I could easily see these characters appearing in future stories.
The story cements the art's likable designs with equally likable characters, especially Candace and Grace. From the main cast to the supporting crew, this is a book that celebrates the unifying power of video games without feeling the need to rub that idea in your face. While I do think the artwork is just a tad stronger than the narrative this time around, that doesn't mean the story is by any means slouching. The story manages to be wholesome without getting boring. It also casually drops one of the cutest and most naturally paced LGBT relationships I’ve ever seen in a comic. I can think of more than a handful of comics and shows that can't tell a male/female romance this competently, let alone a female/female one.
I loved this book, almost in spite of myself. I was worried I would find it cringe-inducing or too self-referential since it's based on a popular video game. In the end, I was entirely won over by its charm and well-meaning nature. It wouldn't have surprised me one bit if this book had been just a glorified advertisement for Minecraft, but it was so much more than that.
Minecraft: Volume 1 is definitely meant for a young audience, but with tight writing, compelling visuals, and a progressive narrative, it's exactly the sort of content I hope young audiences are consuming. Minecraft fans and readers with young kids will find a perfect companion in this book. If you're not familiar with Minecraft at all, you might have a little trouble relating to some of the content, but that just means you ought to keep an eye out for more stories by this creative team.
Creative Team: Sfè R. Monster (Writer), Sarah Graley (Artist), Stef Purenins (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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