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‘Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate’ – Trade Paperback Review

Magic! Adventure! Terror! Romance! DRAGONS! What isn’t there to love about Dungeons & Dragons? For the uninitiated: Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game. Basically, this means you assume the role of a character and then use dice to determine what that character does and how well it goes for them. The game is so wildly popular that it has spawned movies, games, books, and comics for decades. Which brings us to today’s offering: Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate.

Following the Flaming Fist Company as they return to their home city of Bladur’s Gate, each issue focuses on one member dealing with the various demons and criminals that seek to control the city. The team is comprised of the following: Minsc, a dim-witted ranger; Boo, his pet hamster; Krydle and Shandie, a pair of rogues; Delina, a sorcerer who struggles to control her magic; and Nerys, a cleric afflicted with lycanthropy. Each member has their own objectives and ideologies, but they ultimately come together to form a cohesive team.

As I dug into Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate, I was immediately struck by the comedic tone. Minsc, in particular, spouts one-liners and silly jokes in almost every line of dialogue. I’ll admit I was initially a bit put off, as I’d expected a much more serious affair, but as I dug deeper into the book, I found myself coming around to the approach. The book doesn’t seem shy of its gaming origins and instead embraces the often silly and over-the-top storytelling of Dungeons & Dragons. When I saw Minsc less as a fantasy archetype and more as an excitable D&D player gleefully shouting corny lines at the Dungeon Master’s monsters, I immediately found him unbelievably charming.

To that same end, the most brilliant element of this book lies in its composition. The book intentionally starts with the over-the-top Minsc, showing this disparate party, then proceeds into more serious tales with Krydle and Delina. When the story finally does wrap up, its grand finale is a particularly dark tale focusing on Nerys that shows exactly why this adventuring company works so well. A quick denouement resolves the story on a fun note with a story about Boo, the unassuming hamster, saving the day while the rest of the party relaxes. This design allows us to enjoy the humor of the book initially, then get invested in the characters and their alliance, and finally leave everything on a happy note with Boo’s adventure. The lineup was perfect, and I think it made these individually alright stories something much stronger as a whole.

The artwork is strong, especially in the character and set designs. The titular Baldur’s Gate feels damp and compact, exactly what you’d expect from a seedy under city. Each protagonist has a distinctive look accentuated by a color associated with that character. Not to mention the monsters look rightfully horrifying. It’s everything one might hope for in a D&D comic. If I had any complaints, I’d say no one illustration particularly wowed me, but overall the quality remains high from beginning to end, especially around Delina’s adventures through the machine world of Mechanus.

Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate is something I don’t see enough of when it comes to D&D literature. It’s a story that doesn’t feel the need to be overly ambitious. Compact and comfortable, this is the sort of book I like to read after a rough day or when I need a break. If you’re looking for the quintessential D&D story filled with dragons and sweeping epics, this isn’t exactly it. But if you want something low stakes and that is surprisingly kid friendly, I heartily recommend Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate. It’s ultimately a story that remembers the most important thing about D&D: that D&D is fun.

Creative Team: Jim Zub (Writer), Dean Kotz (Artist), Steven Cummings (Artist), Harvey Tolibao (Artist), Ramon Bachs (Artist), Francesco Mortarino (Artist), John Wycough (Inks), Stefani Renee (Colorist), Jordi Escuin (Colorist), Juan Manuel Rodriques (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Click here to purchase.

L. N. Conliff, Fanbase Press Contributor


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