The series based on the iconic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons continues, with more orc-fighting, more shape-shifting assassins, and more dungeons built by insane dwarven murderers. Sound like a fun read? Find out after the jump!

Writer: John Rogers
Artist: Andrea Di Vito
Colourist: Aburtov and Graphikslava
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Cover Artists: Tyler Walpole (Cover A), Tim Seeley (Cover B)
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Publisher: IDW
Price: $3.99

Previously, in Dungeons & Dragons: Adric Fell leads a group of adventurers. Joined by Kahl the dwarf, Varis the elf, Bree the halfling, and Tisha the tiefling, the Fell’s Five have found themselves in trouble when a supernatural zombie attack hit the town of Fallcrest. Blamed for the attack, the Fell’s Five attempted to clear their name and ended up fighting a shape-shifting assassin, whom they have tracked right into the middle of an orc attack!

A Story Well Told, Again

We open with Adric fighting the orc leader in single combat. Adric gains the upper hand, eventually, by ‘doing the totally unexpected’ and kissing the orc, confusing him. The rest of the orcs attack anyway, directed by the orc priest, but by this time Varis has already worked out that that same priest is the shape-shifter, who is thus shortly dispatched and the orcs driven off. After that we find out that a device that the shape-shifter had is a ‘world key’ – a thing of dark dwarven magic that allows one to open a portal to another world. The party decides to go to Chad’Maragh, where the world keys were made, and sure enough they find some malevolent force there. Fighting ensues and our issue ends with the Fell’s Five in a sealed chamber filling with water – a trap!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this is a fairly standard fantasy story – what else would one expect from Dungeons & Dragons, which is all about having adventures in a standard fantasy setting. However, this book seems to embrace this aspect of itself, and as a result serves up a fantasy story well and compellingly told, with some entertaining characters to boot. In this third issue our ‘the heroes are falsely-accused and must clear their name’ plot undergoes its natural evolution, with an initial threat being removed, the stakes being raised, and some hints at a larger problem afoot. It all plays out in a rather satisfactory way, as well it might, and I found that the story moved at a pace that was just about right to keep me interesting and reading.

The writing is a mixture of action and comedy, and overall this works well and the entire issue (and, indeed, the series thus far) maintains a light-hearted feel to it, exactly as you might get from a group of friends sitting around a table to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons. A fair few jokes elicited chuckles from me, and I especially enjoyed the single page covering the party’s journey towards Chad’Maragh, which shows the party doing some of the things one would expect in a game – encountering random monsters and taking a short rest etc.

The characters, too, are as stock as expected, but the book once again plays this to its advantage, using characters we all know to craft a strong story. Each of the characters seem to hint at some more complex elements, too – some hidden aspect of their past that has only been mentioned in passing at this point. Although an oft-used writing technique, this tactic is still effective, and I have hopes that, if this series continues long-term, we might see the characters grow from their stock origins.

Mass Combat can be Confusing

The art certainly is enjoyable – all the characters and scenes are rendered convincingly and consistently, in a style that rather suits the setting. I must, in particular, praise Di Vito’s skill in drawing the variety of humanoids and the couple of monsters in this book; the monsters, in particular, only appear that the aforementioned page of transition towards Chad’Maragh, and it is great to see that, even for a singular appearance in the book, the artist has made these supernatural monsters look very good indeed.

A criticism that I must lay at this book’s door, however, is that the fight scenes feel rather fragmented: they do not tend to flow quite as they should, and as a result they can end up being rather confusing. The fault of this, I think, is not entirely of the writer or the artist, but rather this problem is a consequence of the book itself – having five different people fighting a large number of enemies can be tough to do, especially as this book tries to give each of the Fell’s Five their own little moment in each fight. As a result, the perspective jumps a lot between characters, and that is why the fight scenes can feel disjointed and confusing. That said, I thought this issue was better in that respect than the last issue, so perhaps over time the creative team will learn lessons and continue to improve.

This issue has two covers, Cover A depicting Adric swarmed by orcs, and Cover B depicting Varis fighting orcs. Cover A has a painted look to it, whilst Cover B looks more like the interior art (at first glance, that is, it is drawn by a different artist and is distinct from the interior art). They both have about equal amounts to do with the content of the book (although, Cover A has a slight edge here, as part of the book does focus on Adric fighting a single orc), that amount being ‘a bit’. I think that, perhaps, Cover A has a more eye-catching image, but I am undecided on this – whilst it certainly is the more dramatic of the two up close, I’m not sure if it would attract someone’s attention from the stands significantly more than Cover B. The other two covers are a black and white version of Cover B, and a drawing of Varis by Andrea Di Vito against a white background. Overall, a run of average covers.

Add Some Fun to Your Pull List

The word that really sums up this book is ‘fun’ – it’s just a good old bit of fun: I get the sense that that was what what the creators were going for, and that’s what I got out of this book. If you like Dungeons & Dragons, sword and sorcery fantasy stories, or just want something a little light-hearted to put on your stack, then this is something I think you’ll want to check out, and it gets four out of five stars from me.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Author

Scott Hunter

Scott Hunter

He spells 'colour' with a 'u' and has the Queen on his money, but Scott Hunter loves pop culture all the same. His first memories of comics are of going down to the local corner shop to buy issues of The Beano and watching the 90s X-Men and Spider-man cartoons. He only recently started reading and collecting comics regularly, but has plunged himself heart and soul into the hobby, bagging and boarding with the best of them. Outside of comics, he enjoys sci-fi (reading, writing and watching), good-bad horror films playing with a brass band. Favourite writers include John Wagner, Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Alan Grant and (in non-comics literature) Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft. Colin MacNeil, Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland and Alex Ross rank among his favourite artists.

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