While Krydle of Baldur’s Gate bargains with the devilishly divine Oreasha for the survival of Elturel, Nerys and Minsc scramble to escape a mountain of bones as the armies of demons and devils wage war around them. Will they survive? Roll 2d6 and read this Major Spoilers review of Dungeons and Dragons: Infernal Tides #4 from IDW Publishing to find out!
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Max Dunbar
Colorists: Sebastian Cheng & David Cruz
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Editor: David Hedgecock
Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING
Release Date: July 8th, 2020
Previously in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4: Sucked into the Nine Hells, the city of Elturel grimly hangs on as its heroes attempt to free her from a demonic fate. Becoming separated in this nightmarish realm, Krydl and Shandie, Minsc and Nerys have had to use all their skills and talents to survive…
ROLL D20 TO HIT!
Way back into the 1980s, D&D co-creator Gary Gygax penned a series of novels featuring Gord, a human thief. On his way to becoming a God (Gord, not Gary), Gord adventured across the length and breadth of Greyhawk. When that all became a bit to passe, Gord ventured into the Abyss, facing an endless legion of devils and demons as he saved the world of Oerth (by, aah, destroying it).
I say all that because DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4 does much like those novels of yore, though in a more psychedelic and less dogmatic manner than Gygax. The Gord novels were fun for what they were, but it was a dogged slog to get through them, especially after Gygax parted ways with TSR. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4, on the other hand, is a bright, breezy excursion into the realm of the damned.
As befits the younger demographic that is being attracted more and more to D&D these days, with all those new fangled real play podcasts (hello, Critical Hit!) and all sorts of celebs participating in streamed games, the tone in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4 is lighter than the setting might lead one to believe. Sure, they’re in the Nine Hells, which isn’t like your timeshare condo down in Florida. I mean, yes, it’s hot and social distancing isn’t what it could be, but there’s less eternal damnation on more eternal fun-nation (okay, I’ll stop).
Krydle and the gang seek to save Elturel from being dragged fully into Avernus, and thus becoming prey to the endless hordes of demons and devils that inhabit this nightmare realm. The dialogue between characters is much more modern than one would expect from a tale of high fantasy, but given the readership, the sort of faux Middle Ages chit chat one tends to find in fantasy novels would be alienating. For me, this approach, while understandable, does undercut the seriousness of proceedings. But that is a minor gripe.
Overall, writer Jim Zub keeps DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4 powering along in an exciting story that is gripping and amusing at the same time. Krydle and his efforts to free his friends, and the bargain he makes with Oreasha, form the spine of the issue. He is clearly a character who has assumed the role of hero, going above and beyond to help the city, its inhabitants, and his friends survive the turmoil. But the price of his bargain comes at the cost of his soul, and while all isn’t revealed in this issue, more is sure to come.
The fun aspect of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4 lies in the adventures of Minsc (clearly a Lawful Good character, judging by his outburst in fealty to the cause of Good) and Nerys, a Neutral character intent on maintaining the balance. After the evil fighter Haruman harried them over the edge of a cliff, they dig themselves out of a mountain of bones, and find themselves in the midst of a massive war between demons and devils. Exciting adventure ensues as they climb aboard some sort of devilish pirate ship, which sails the wastes of the Nine Hells gathering gold objects and soul coins.
These action set pieces are beautifully rendered by the art team, headed by Max Dunbar. The preponderance of chains early in the issue put me in mind of Todd McFarlane, but Dunbar has his own style, which comes to life under the coloring skills of Sebastian Cheng and David Cruz. Sebastian Cheng & David Cruz is a vibrant kaleidoscope of movement and action. The scenes of the battle, set against a plain of bones, of vast demonic creatures battling titanically, while smaller features scuttle and fight at their feet, is an awesome sight to behold. In the quieter moments, too, when we see Krydle and Oreasha bargain, great use of close ups demonstrate the emotions on display. Good use of angles also give a sense that the world of the Nine Hells isn’t a place where sanity prevails.
BOTTOM LINE: SLICK AND FUN
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #4 takes some pretty dark material (demons, devils, torture and soul bargains) and deals with it in such a way that the target audience (and to be frank, their parents) won’t be repelled by it. The art is fantastic, a real credit to the creators, and immediately captures the eye and the imagination.