REVIEW: Dungeons and Dragons #1 – Shadows of the Vampire Part 1

 Normally I don’t like reviewing books in the same series, to avoid bias and repetition, but after reading D&D Legend of Baldur’s Gate #1 a couple of weeks ago, I was curious how this title would fare. You’ll be glad to know the differences between that book and this one are plentiful; the downside is that some of them are negative. This oversized issue contains two individual stories by different creative teams, so I just couldn’t pass up the chance to review this, if for no other reason than the amount of content was too much for my weekly Lightning Review.This quest is about a group of mercenaries hired by the “Death Clergy”, followers of the God of the Dead, Kelevmor, who have been on the receiving end of attacks by werewolves and skeleton warriors. I am familiar with some of these mercenaries, while others I am introduced to in this comic. There is the warrior Minsc and his miniature giant space hamster Boo, the mage Delina, the dwarf archer Shandie, and the leader Krydle. Yup, definitely a D&D comic. Big fight scenes, nefarious plans, and daring rescues fill the pages of this comic and Jim Zub writes it wonderfully. The daughter of the Death Clergy’s high priest finds herself in the fray and is a formidable warrior, although headstrong and pious. I was disappointed that Max Dunbar did not return to do the art. Nelson Daniel fills that position and while his art style isn’t unpleasant, it does lack detail in some scenes and is a strange combination of cartoon and horror. He also does the colors and they’re pretty average. It’s an interesting supernatural fantasy story though and the reveal on the last page is sure to please long time D&D fans.

The second tale is written by Bart Carroll of a group called Wizards of the Coast and is set in the same universe as our main story, but is completely different. Entitled “Tyranny of Dragons”, it follows a different group of characters, but just as diverse in race and specialty. The story is quite wordy, with references that casual readers simply won’t understand. The most off-putting aspect of the writing is the lack of speech. Never in this ten page layout is there a single speech or thought bubble. This creates an excellent narrative, but is not well suited for comic books. What I do love about Tyranny of Dragons is the art. David Baldeon nails the artwork, making the fights formidable and the heroes regal. Even more awe-inspiring is the color work by Joana Lafuente. It’s gorgeous! If I wrote down all the instances where her hues blew me away, I’d need to start a new paragraph. Seriously great stuff.

If you took the story from the first part of this comic and used the art from the second part, you’d have a damn good book. Sadly, the creative teams were mismatched and we get two good, but not great, entries into the Dungeons and Dragons mythos. I recommend it, but it’s not going on my list of personal favorites. Individual stories get 3/5 stars, but the great individual parts of each of these is enough to warrant a higher overall rating.

Excellent components, 4 out of 5 Stars!

(W) Jim Zub (A) Nelson Daniel (CA) Max Dunbar
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