Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons: Frost Giant's Fury #1

Greetings, citizens! It is I, your one and only Comfortable Couchman! Today, we’re talking about the first issue in the latest D&D mini-series, Frost Giant’s Fury.

D&D has a special place in my heart, and always will. It introduced me to the world of tabletop gaming, which has been my primary means of socialising since I was in middle school. It was what forged so many wonderful friendships, many of which I still cherish to this day. You can say that it’s just a game, but it really is more than that. It’s a bonding experience, a collaborative effort between you and others to tell a story. A way to just unwind and de-stress from the bleakness of the world we live in, and do some derring do while earning piles of gold that would wreck economies in the real world.

I got introduced to the first mini-series by the writer himself, Jim Zub, at Gen Con 2014. The short little preview that he handed out (and signed for me) was immensely entertaining for only being a couple of pages. I didn’t recognize the character of Minsc, but one of my friends who I was at the con with was more than happy to explain who he was, with many an enthusiastic “Go for the eyes, Boo!” I was unemployed at the time, but I still managed to pick up the entire series. It was a bright spot in what was a mostly otherwise dark time.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s get into the comic itself. This is the first issue in the third series with these characters. Right away, that’s a frustration of mine. While I don’t dislike the stories themselves, I do kinda wish they were longer. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about decompressed storytelling in comics, but I have to say that I’m quite fond of it, when it’s done properly at least. Limiting the stories to only being five issues is a frustration, especially when the stories are ones that I would love to see explored more. The first series was about a dragon cult, and being a huge dragon lover, I really wanted to see that continue. But ultimately, this is a minor complaint, and one that can only be directed at people paying for the work, and not the creative team themselves.

The writer, as I mentioned earlier, is Jim Zub. He’s been the only consistent member of the creative team throughout all of the series, which is good. Keeping the same writer means that the characters will be portrayed consistently, which is a necessity when you’re trying to keep people reading from one mini-series to the next. Zub’s writing is efficient, moving the plot along at a steady pace, but also managing to get in some good character moments and good one liners/jokes. This series is something of a departure from the previous ones though. There is a decidedly dour note to much of the dialogue, and the situation the heroes find themselves in. Which does make sense, considering how things are for our heroes. The last series did not end on a high note, and this one picks up almost immediately thereafter. Minsc is the one most affected by this. In the previous series, he was positively jovial and energetic, eager to leap into adventure regardless of what it was. That optimism served them well on Ravenloft, but it seems that the Plane of Dread took its toll on our brave ranger. I was actually sad, seeing Minsc like that. There is a real sense of tension in the issue

For the artwork, we’ve got Netho Diaz as the artist, and colors by Thiago Ribeiro, and they do an excellent job. I was thrown at first, because the artwork is very different from the previous two series. They each had different artists, but they did have a similar sort of feel to them. Max Dunbar on the first series had very tight, detailed linework, with some bright, diverse colors from John-Paul Bove (and Joana Lafuente as well on issue #2). On the second series, Nelson Daniel provided some very energetic panels, as well as colors which were toned-down and muted to reflect the bleakness of Ravenloft. For Frost Giant’s Fury, the lines are dynamic and heavy, along with the shadows. The colors are dark and moody, meshing with the tone of the issue exquisitely. More than a few panels have a sort of baroque feel to them, and I adore it. You can feel the weariness of the characters, the sense of sorrow and bitterness that’s enfolding them. When the characters get hit, you can almost feel it. I legitimately winced when I saw a particular strike, something I don’t think I’ve ever done with a comic before.

Overall, this is a fantastic start to the series, and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

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