The best you can usually hope for in a Dungeons & Dragons comic is a decent fantasy story.
That’s not even much to aspire to considering it’s D&D, and sadly most can’t even meet that low threshold.
IDW’s Shadows of the Vampire, from writer Jim Zub and artist Nelson Dániel, actually feels like sitting down at the table and rolling some dice.
The NPCs speak like a DM wrote out their dialogue. The adventurers talk like friends sitting around a table and cracking jokes. The action is engaging. The story is exciting.
In the introductory scene, a couple characters foolishly poke around a temple, the characters almost immediately ask to get paid, Minsc demands extra pay for his animal buddy, Boo, and the characters also get into a pissing match with one of the allied NPCs.
Who hasn’t been there?
And the story basically follows an adventuring party of four (five if you count Boo) jumping into D&D’s recent adventure, Curse of Strahd.
And not everything goes the way of the adventurers. Some attacks land, some don’t. Some spells fizzle. Their attackers get away.
No stranger to fantasy comics, Zub does a masterful job of making the story exciting and interesting (and sometimes funny and silly) just like how it goes down at real D&D sessions.
Then there’s Dániel’s art. Not only is he the sole credited artist (pencils, inks, colors), his stuff is great. There’s a movement and energy to his panels. An early dynamic shot of skeletons diving into the Temple of Kelemvor is stunning, and you can read the worry on the face of Minsc in a later panel.
There’s also a lot to enjoy here for longtime D&D fans including a visit to Barovia and fan favorite characters Minsc and Boo.
I’ll be the first to admit: I know nothing about Minsc and Boo. I’m aware of them , but this is my first encounter with the duo. But Zub doesn’t try to explain who they are. He also doesn’t explain the history of Ravenloft.
He drops you right into the story with Minsc, Boo and their adventuring buddies — Krydle, Shandie and Delina — and you’re immediately immersed in the story.
It’s simply great. This is the most exciting fantasy comic I’ve read in a long time, and I can’t wait for more.
I only have one (very minor) complaint: There should be some game content included in the back of the comic. I love the monthly Pathfinder comics, which include adventures, background, NPCs and a poster map in each issue. They don’t even kneed to do that. Shadows of the Vampire could easily include stats for Minsc, a new spell or even background on the Kelemvorites or Ravenloft itself.
Including some game content would also be to Wizards of the Coast’s benefit: Comic fans may have a new reason to try out (or return to) D&D, and RPG fans hungry for new content and stats would have a reason to pick up the comic.
That said, the lack of actual RPG material didn’t detract at all from the comic itself, so I’m not dropping any stars off my rating. It’s a 5/5 from me.
If you like D&D, RPGs or fantasy, go get this comic!
Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows of the Vampire: Part One
Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Nelson Daniel
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Editor: John Barber
Pages: 24 (plus a 10-page back-up story)