Friday, May 27, 2011

Spotlight: Dungeons & Dragons

Writer: John Rogers
Artists: Andrea Di Vito & Denis Medri
Company: IDW Publishing

Dungeons and Dragons.  That title, for good or ill, comes with some baggage.  Over the years, it's been touted as one of the best table top RPGs, a game that is inherently EVIL and a game for only basement dwelling geeks.  I have been playing the game off and on for a lot of my life and for me, it's an awesome game.  One that bands together a group of friends and allows them to blow off steam and laugh for 8 hours straight.  Still, the stigma exists and I think some people are shying away from reading the book because of it.  Don't do this, as you are depriving yourself from one of the funniest, clever and all-around enjoyable books that can be found on the shelves of your local comic book shop.

"But I don't play D&D.  Why would I buy a D&D book?"

This is a perfectly legitimate question, one that I can answer with two simple words.  John Rogers.  Comic aficionados will know that name from his Blue Beetle relaunch with writer Keith Giffen from a few years back.  Television fans might also recognize his name due to Rogers being the creator of the smash hit TNT series Leverage.  What Rogers brings to the table is accessibility.  You don't have to know anything about D&D to be entertained by this book, you merely have to like the Fantasy genre.  From there, Rogers merely tells the story of a rag tag group of people who have banded together in order to adventure and get rich.  It's a fairly straight forward story that slowly introduces new readers to the world and wonders of the Universe.  For those who have played D&D at some point, and have some fondness for it, Rogers doesn't leave you out in the cold.  You can easily tell that he is a gamer at heart too and has some love for Dungeons and Dragons specifically with the many in jokes and shout outs that occur throughout the series.

Still, like any good writer, he makes it all about the characters.  These characters are anything but flat, which in the Fantasy genre, is nice.  Their personalities are larger than life and likable and ooze off of the page.  From Adric Fel, the leader who wants to do anything but lead to Bree Three Hands, who will steal anything that isn't nailed down to Varis, a strange Elf who prefers cities to the forests where you would normally find his race.  There are more too, people like the resident Dwarf Khal and the shadowy Warlock named Tisha, but they all share the same distinct and memorable characteristics and have a quality that make you root for them.  They are also are given the time to develop in the best way possible, through their actions on the page.

Rogers also happens to bring the funny with him.  Throughout these seven issues, I can almost guarantee that your sides will be splitting at some point.  From Orphan Zombies to Orc kissing to literal rock fights, the jokes stack up and deliver max damage each time.  It's situational comedy at its best, but it doesn't feel out of place or like its making fun of the genre.  It's exactly what a D&D comic should be.

Another thing this book has is action.  Providing said over the top, monster bashing action for the first six issues is Andrea Di Vito.  With things like Annihilation and Nova under his belt, his ability to draw ensembles and large scale battle scenes has been tested and he continues to knock them out of the park.  It seems like a small thing to say that his line work is clean and distinctive, but without that, the action in this book could easily become too confusing and muddied to the point where a reader loses interest or feels a great disconnect.  Also, the sheer amount of backgrounds he has done here is amazing:  Towns, forests, villages, bunkers, catacombs and dungeons.  Di Vito has tackled them all and made each one a detailed and immersive affair.

So yes, with John Rogers and Andrea Di Vito at the helm, the end result is a Dungeons & Dragons book that is both accessible and awesome to anyone no matter how they feel about the actual table top RPG.  Check it out and join the fun.

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