Two parents on the run find a safe valley in which to raise their twins, Rana and Griffon. But is there more to Frostbrook and its strange ruins than meets the eye? Find out in Dryad #1 from Oni Press!

Dryad #1 ReviewDRYAD #1

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Justin Osterling
Publisher: Oni Press
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 4, 2020

Previously in Dryad: Morgan (a female Elven warrior) and Yale (a human scholar) find their lives upset. They’re now a family – they have two young twins – but they are on the run and have to flee the city that has been their home. Can they find the mysterious hidden valley Yale has heard of and raise their children in safety?

A CLASSIC FANTASY QUEST STORY WITH SOME MODERN SENSIBILITY

Dryad #1 opens deep in a wilderness with an unexpected line of dialogue: “I think he’s done another poo.” A couple have stopped to change an infant and have a discussion that I suspect will be familiar to anyone who has been a parent. Morgan, the mother, carries a huge sword and has a bloody bandage around her head. She stands alert as Yale changes little Griffon, who obligingly pees on him, as little boys do. Then it starts to rain. And then the babies – for they are twins (Rana is the girl) start to cry. It’s an inauspicious start, but this solid grounding in reality makes it a little funnier.

They climb up a cliff, each of them with a little one in a backpack, and find a cave with an ornately carved entrance, and more carvings inside in an old style that even Yale has not seen before. One of them is a symbol showing two intertwined trees. This is the way to a valley, bucolic, shimmering with light, and housing a small medieval-looking village.

Thirteen years pass and Morgan is on the prowl, sword in hand. She hunts down and kills a chittering monster and heads home. Her cook, Mrs. Lyhr, had lost her dog. Now all that remains of him is a bloody collar. One the one hand, this is so dark. On the other hand, Morgan chides the woman: “This is why we don’t have trapdoors to ancient dungeons in our cold storage.” This is where I fell in love a bit with this book. That one sentence immediately tells us that this is a fantasy world that is not just a carbon copy of the standard LOTR variant.

Next, we cut to Yale who is leading a group of young people on an apparent architectural tour of some of the ancient ruins. He is their history teacher, which is a convenient excuse for a lecture about the Vihiri – a past culture/race that they do not know much about. Mid-lecture, a spider the size of a large dog jumps out and attacks one of the students. Yale quietly asks his assistant if the parents signed a release form. These little modern touches lift the story out of classic fantasy and add room for humor we can connect with.

Supper time means some family conversation around the table. Morgan is feeling out of sorts. They’ve been living in Frostbrook for some time, and it’s quiet and peaceful, and other than the odd monster now and then, she doesn’t feel like a warrior. The kids head out with friends, and the parents take advantage of this to hang out on the roof and get a little high.

The kids, all teenagers, go to the woods to hang out and do stuff, like Rana drawing her bow and preparing to shoot an apple balanced on Magnus’ head. He flinches; the arrow strikes a rock and ricochets, hitting a small bird. Griffon spends a moment mourning the bird, and this shows us some of the difference between them. Then Rana suggests that they should go explore the temple they were at earlier in history class. And there they find a huge set of double doors, engraved with the symbol of intertwined trees.

SMALL GLIMPSES OF A LARGER WORLD

The art of Dryad #1 is instantly engaging. The wilderness is magical, huge green trees that are in part shadowy and covered in moss and fungus, but otherwise are bathed in an almost sparkly golden light. And in the midst of this old-growth beauty, our expectations are subverted by babies that need changing. I love a fantasy world that is not afraid to have some prosaic moments. This is echoed by the history class scene. The small group of kids is diverse, but every bit as bored as one might expect high schoolers to be. The overgrown temple is an intriguing backdrop. We see a variety of carvings, including another take on the intertwined trees, but also including faces.

The characters are expressive, and you can tell a lot about their personalities by how they are depicted. Some of them talk with their hands a lot, which cannot be easy to draw, but it gives them more dynamism and makes them feel down to earth. The family interacts like a family – they’re comfortable and familiar with one another.

BOTTOM LINE: A REFRESHING START

While Dryad #1 has some familiar fantasy elements, it has some refreshing twists. The characters are interesting, and it’s fun not to start out with immediate conflict and angst. It’s a solid set up for the rest of the series.


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Dryad #1

77%
77%
A Refreshing Start

Their parents have a mysterious past, but what mysteries will Rana and Griffon discover?

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By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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