We’re all familiar with fantasy gaming tropes, right? Dungeons, dragons, treasure, wizards, critical hit rolls – that kind of thing. In a lot of ways, poking fun at these tropes has become a bit of a cliché in itself, with so many comics, books and TV shows taking great pleasure in pointing out in the inherent ridiculousness of the fantasy gaming world and the type of players who frequently inhabit it. Munchkin is a card game that rejoices in these clichés, embracing the fact that all most players really want at the end of the day is to slay monsters and gather treasure, happily stabbing their friends in the back if it means earning a few extra gold coins. And now, BOOM! Studios – as part of their KaBOOM! imprint – are bringing that ethos to the pages of a brand new ongoing comic series.
Taking the form of several short stories, this first issue lays out its stall impressively, setting the proper tone from the get-go and providing a gloriously irreverent look at the fantasy gaming world. The opening story, ‘What is a Munchkin?’, is a fairly short – but no less amusing for it – tale courtesy of writer Tom Siddell. Introducing us to the main characteristics that make up a Munchkin by way of a hilariously misleading recruitment campaign.
The next story, ‘Humans Got No Class’, can be seen as the main course here – a longer, in-depth tale that introduces us to Dave, a shiftless human on a dungeon crawl who seems completely disinterested in picking a ‘class’ for himself, instead letting the other people in his group do the bulk of the work while he shrugs and sighs his way through the dungeon. Once again, Siddell’s writing is sharp and his humour is spot-on (one particular line – about a member of the party being a published author – absolutely slayed me, requiring a few moments of recovery before I continued reading), perfectly capturing the humour of the card game with his ludicrous descriptions of the other members of Dave’s party. Mike Holmes’ artwork is basic for sure, but still lively and colourful enough to capture the excitement of the dungeon crawl. Plus, the payoff at the end of the story is utterly brilliant.
Fantasy veteran Jim Zub takes the reigns next with ‘Ready for Anything’, as an experienced Munchkin leads a newcomer through a dungeon, sharing his nuggets of ‘advice’ along the way. While it doesn’t quite hit the high standard of the previous story, there’s still some laughs to be had here, particularly when describing the potential monsters that may be encountered in the dungeon. There are a lot of nods to the card game here, from card names to Rian Sygh’s imprsssively coloured artwork, and once again the story perfectly captures the back-stabbing, ‘treasure-at-all-costs’ ethos of the Munchkin card game.
Finally, card game artist John Kovalic rounds things out beautifully with ‘Table of Contents’, a hilarious one-page strip in his distinctive style, poking fun at yet another familiar fantasy cliché. Perhaps more than the other strips, a passing familiarity with the likes of D&D will help the joke find its mark, as those unfamiliar with the ‘monster’ in question may be left scratching their heads in confusion. For me though, this was a perfect end to the Munchkin ‘meal’ – a wonderful post-dinner mint guaranteed to send you home with a smile.
Overall, the first issue of Munchkin has to be viewed as an overwhelming success in terms of converting the offbeat humour of the card game to the world of comics. While a general understanding of the game – or of fantasy gaming in general – will certainly enhance the experience, isn’t necessarily a prerequisite. Siddell, Zub and Kovalic each roll a critical humour hit in their respective stories here, with no chance for a saving throw.
My only real concern for this title is with how it’s going to maintain things moving forwards. As funny as the premise is, I can see it becoming rather repetitive fairly quickly, so I’ll be watching with interest to see how they avoid things becoming stale in the issues to come. For the time being however, this is definitely a recommended purchase, for fans of the game in particular (each first print edition of the comic comes with a collectable Munchkin game card, folks!) as well as fans of, well, laughing in general.
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