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Review – Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows of the Vampire #1 (IDW Publishing)

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Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Nelson Daniel
Release Date: May 4th 2016


So much to my delight, it would appear that Legends of Baldur’s Gate – released way back in late 2014, if you care to cast you mind back that far – was a success, given that this here is a direct sequel to it.

Much as it was difficult to absolutely call the idiosyncratic Legends an essential read for all comic fans, there’s a curious joy to the story for old(-ish?) D&D nerds like myself – Zub’s portrayal of this world and these characters is steeped in the lore of the Forgotten Realms, and like-minded folk can pick apart and fondly remember our own time spent dicking about in said Realms yesteryear. Then there’s the fact that come the end of the issue, it would appear that we’ll see how this particular set of heroes deal with a classic D&D adventure that’s nearly as old as the game itself, which is something of a tantalising prospect.

But it’s ultimately a subtle steeping, like a well-seasoned meal – at no point are you bombarded by the history and minutiae of these worlds, but it’s all there if you look for it, in both the verbal and visual aspects of the narrative. This does serve to make it a terrific diving-aboard piece – doing precisely enough explaining to get interested newcomers up to speed, without being overwhelming, as stories set in pre-existing fantasy worlds can so often be. You don’t even really need to have read Legends of Baldur’s gate (although I really do recommend that you do, the series as a whole is good fun despite the occasional hiccup) to keep up.

Daniel’s art is good, capturing the essence of each of the characters with delightfully subtle shifts in facial expressions, and there are moments of genuinely brilliant story-telling that keep you turning the pages. It’s a shame that there are other moments where odd decisions in the layout department through a spanner into the otherwise carefully oiled machine that is the story’s pacing. Still, it’s not even close to unreadable – just expect one or two moments where you might find yourself mildly confused, having read panels in the wrong order.

All that said, it can probably be taken as read that the series continues to struggle to shrug off its idiosyncrasies – the very things that are good about it for those of us with a hankering for a sword-and-sorcery tale will be what puts off those of you who need their fix of capes-and-tights. But going in with an open mind, you might find yourself enjoying it anyways. Irresistible to fans, and certainly worth a look for the uninitiated.

Rating: 3/5.


PREVIEW ARTWORK
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RSavThe Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24


 

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