DUNGEONS & DRAGONS #1 / Writer: B. Dave Walters / Art: Tess Fowler / Colors: Jay Foto / Letters: Tom B. Long / Publisher: IDW / Release Date: March, 20th, 2019
Dungeons and Dragons #1 opens during a battle in Moonshae Isles where four comrades discuss their dire situation of being outmanned in combat. They bravely go into battle anyhow, showing their powers are strong enough to hold off the attackers until reinforcements arrive. As the tide turns and they see their main foe, the comic flashes back to the past of their leader, Helene; particularly, how she came to be with this heroic team so far away from home.
This story by B. Dave Walters is instantly engaging. As someone who has only been D&D adjacent, I thought this comic would be an interesting insight into that game. I have played some MMORPGs online that are fantasy based, so I was able to follow the fantasy character traits. If not familiar with fantasy, a reader may feel out of the loop with these power sets. Dungeons and Dragons #1 included the fantasy angle, but the only real references to the game are the mythical races and Xander’s character sheet on the back cover. That being said, seeing dice rolled or other game factors are not needed. This is a world of its own, instead of one created by a game
Walters’s characters are distinct personalities: their relationships are formed well through the flashbacks, but only Helene seems to have real motivation or drive at this point. The others seem to just go along with her. Even those who were on the same path seem to just be following her after one meeting. Is this because she is the strongest of them or because the author will address the others in future issues? We cannot tell yet. One thing is clear: Helene left to see the world, leaving behind a family who cared for her. She is magically powerful and strong minded, determined, and protective of her friends. The author makes her a true hero and leader.
Most characters still need fleshing out, but I did enjoy the twins, who are healers that can also tailor clothing with their powers. So it seems they are apparently clerics or druids for… everything? They finish each other’s sentences and have interesting instincts. They will be easier to develop in future stories as they are already interesting, but definitely need more explanation
Walters keeps a good pace through Dungeons & Dragons. The dialog is similar to D&D games, and the ending has a great, shocking reveal. That being said, I feel this comic is rather short for the world it is trying to establish. Maybe there could have been a few more pages of the past before jumping so far into the future again. This could explain the missing friends from the past or a character that is only on the cover.
On that note, I have to mention the wonderful cover by Tess Fowler, colored by Tamra Bonvillain. I debated getting this book, but the cover featuring the red headed Helene with her friends is eye catching. The dark purple tones of night that Bonvillian uses for the older group, versus the warm brighter tones for the younger group, suggests its own story. This juxtaposition alone tells the reader that the idealistic views of youth can be dashed when a group goes through life’s trials and tribulations.
Tess Fowler’s art throughout the comic is intricate and beautiful, particularly Helene’s red hair and overflowing style. I would hang this art of Helene on my wall! Xander is so well drawn and seems modeled on Jason Momoa. The expressions are easy to see and help the reader understand connections forming between characters. This clarity leads to seeing a somewhat cliche foreshadowing of a relationship between Helene and the good-looking Xander. Although, I hope the writer doesn’t feel Helene needs a relationship of this kind to be interesting.
The aging of all of the characters was done beautifully. You can see the hard times they’ve endured as well as the years that have changed their appearance. Colorist Jay Fotos does a wonderful job giving each race its own color and making Helene’s red hair stand out. The shading done on each character made them more realistic and dare I say attractive.
I think we can all attest to the theme of life changing you and your relationships over time. Things that were important once may no longer be important now. Overall, Dungeons and Dragons #1 is well told and well paced, while also strategically keeping some background secrets from the reader. I hope the remaining plot points and incomplete characters are being saved for future issues. The art in this book is gorgeous and I cannot wait to see it evolve in future issues.
Verdict: 4 out of 5.