Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate

Published: May 27th, 2015
Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Max Dunbar, Sarah Stone
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR

IDW Publishing, 130 Pages

Review:

This is the first modern Dungeons & Dragons comic that I’ve read that didn’t feature Drizzt Do’Urden. Apart from those stories, which I have already reviewed, this is the first D&D comic I’ve picked up since some of the classic issues from my childhood.

The main reason for me checking out this one before some of the others was due to it being written by Jim Zub. I like Zub’s writing, especially in regards to fantasy and sword and sorcery type tales.

So I wasn’t disappointed and I liked this quite a bit.

Mostly, I really liked these characters and the bond they develop over this story, as they form a team of heroes that has to stop an evil sorcerer from doing evil sorcerer things.

After finishing this, I hoped there would be more comic stories with these characters. I’m not 100 percent sure if there are but I’ll seek them out if they exist.

Zub brought his A-game, here, and I love how he creates a real sense of camaraderie between his characters. He also writes in a way where you can tell he enjoys his work and crafting stories in these sort of settings. Frankly, it’s kind of infectious and with that, makes you want to keep supporting the guy.

Anyway, this was a pretty fun and cool read. It left me wanting more and that’s what a comic book story should do.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, as well as fantasy adventure comics written by Jim Zub.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 6: The Halfling’s Gem

Published: May 3rd, 2017
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 135 Pages

Review:

So I have arrived at the final chapter of the six Drizzt Do’Urden trade paperbacks. The series started out a bit murky but picked up steam with the third volume and then got really great by the fourth. The fifth was damn enjoyable and this one was also pretty cool, even if it wasn’t as good as the two chapters before it.

Still, this was a good, fitting conclusion to the series, even though it does leave things open for more. In fact, I know that there was another one-off Drizzt Do’Urden trade paperback that was released after these six original stories.

For readers who have stuck around this long, this is a pretty worthwhile tale.

It starts with the team of heroes we’ve grown to love being separated. However, over the course of the story, they find one another and come to realize that they’re sort of a family. Ultimately, they have to fight once again in an effort to save themselves and vanquish evil. Sure, that may sound fairly generic in the realm of a Dungeons & Dragons story but with characters this cool and this complex, you don’t really care too much about it feeling like it’s leaning hard into certain tropes of the genre.

The story moves at a good pace, it has a lot of subplots that are well-balanced but converge in a satisfying way and it leaves you with a pretty good ending, overall.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 5: Streams of Silver

Published: October 12th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Val Semeiks, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

The fifth of the six Drizzt Do’Urden comic books stories picks up where the fourth one left off. If you read my review for that one, you already know how much I liked it, after starting to lose a bit of faith in this series after the first three entries.

I had high hopes for this series before starting due to how popular the character of Drizzt Do’Urden is and because I’ve heard great things about his literary stories.

While I didn’t like this one as much as the fourth, it’s still damn good and made me excited for the sixth and final installment.

In this one, we see Drizzt and his allies travel a great distance on a new adventure after having just survived a war in volume four. He has his enemies in hot pursuit and draws the ire of another baddie, who forces an alliance with the evil man trying to hunt Drizzt down.

So the villains form a group to rival Drizzt and his allies and the stakes and danger are pretty high. I like that this had an unstoppable golem in it, which had to be outsmarted and taken out of the picture because you can’t actually kill it.

This story ends badly and not every hero comes away unscathed. Drizzt loses allies and it sets up what should be a worthwhile and heavy-hitting finale.

Shit, I got this far and didn’t even talk about the heroes having to fight a big ass dragon that’s hoarding treasure.

There’s just a lot of cool stuff in this volume and there isn’t a single page that’s a bore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 4: The Crystal Shard

Published: June 29th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Val Semeiks, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 135 Pages

Review:

Finally! This is the Drizzt Do’Urden comic book story I had been waiting for! This one pretty much lives up to the hype I’ve heard about this character for years and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The story is my favorite in the comic book adaptations of R.A. Salvatore’s iconic novels, as it is really the first truly epic tale featuring the dark elf.

The main story in this surrounds a war between a network or small villages and a growing, tyrannical empire led by a wizard with a powerful crystal shard that gives him immense power and control of a powerful demon.

We also get to see the expansion of this universe, as new core characters are introduced and the politics of this part of the world take shape.

This obviously features Drizzt Do’Urden but it also gives the reader their first experience with another great Forgotten Realms character, the warrior Wulfgar. This also serves as his origin story, which was surprisingly good. In fact, I’d call it damn good.

The art also looks much better in this volume and this started to feel more like the better Conan comics, tonally and quality-wise, than something that looked overly indie. And I don’t mean that as a knock against indie comics, as obviously I’ve loved and reviewed many, but the art of the first three volumes was below the standard I felt these stories deserved.

This series was losing steam with me but now I am reinvigorated and pretty excited to read the final two volumes following this one. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Film Review: Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

Also known as: Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie (UK promotional title)
Release Date: December 8th, 2000
Directed by: Courtney Solomon
Written by: Carroll Cartwright, Topper Lilien
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Justin Caine Burnett
Cast: Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne, Jeremy Irons, Tom Baker

Silver Pictures, Sweetpea Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 107 Minutes

Review:

“I got a new name for “dumb”: “Ridley”! This is the Ridleyest thing I’ve ever heard!” – Snails

I never wanted to see this. When I saw the trailer over twenty years ago, I knew for a fact that this would bomb, be an embarrassment and that we’d possibly never get another Dungeons & Dragons film because of its shittiness.

Let me be clear, I wasn’t cheering for its failure because I’d definitely love a good D&D movie that features some of the most famous monsters and better represents the game but I knew this movie wasn’t that.

Granted, it does form a team of heroes that are all different with unique skills. So it at least tried to create a good party of diverse character types. However, other than that, it failed in just about every other way. Also, the party didn’t really get used in the story correctly or all that effectively.

The worst thing about this movie is the special effects. The CGI is some of the worst I’ve ever seen from this era. It’s worse than Sci-Fi Channel TV movies and considering that New Line Cinema, the same studio, released the first Lord of the Rings movie just a year later, makes this picture a complete embarrassment.

Even if smaller indie studios made this and New Line just distributed it, it’s still baffling to me. If their thought was to use this to whet the public’s palate for the upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy, that was an awful decision.

Beyond the atrocious CGI, the acting in this is also terrible. There are fairly talented people in the movie but none of them really tried except for Jeremy Irons, who was the best thing in this movie, as far as acting goes.

Some of the sets were actually cool. I liked the labyrinth that Justin Whalin’s character had to try and survive. It was about the only enjoyable sequence in the entire film, though.

Dungeons & Dragons was just a fucking mess. It had annoying, unlikable characters. As well as, an overabundance of unnecessary silliness that helped make it miss its mark completely.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really bad video game film adaptations.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 3: Sojourn

Published: January 13th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 142 Pages

Review:

Each chapter in this series seems to get better. While this one wasn’t a well defined story collected into one volume, it introduced a few different plots and characters that helped greatly with the world building. I felt like I needed that having never read anything featuring Drizzt Do’Urden until I picked up this comic series.

This pretty much has the same art as the previous books and while it’s okay, it still feels like a step down from the level I’ve seen Tim Seeley work at before. It’s a bit basic and the colors aren’t superb but it’s fine for an indie comic about dark elves and monsters. There’s certainly much worse out there, even from publisher IDW.

This chapter is fairly action packed but it’s more about developing the character of Drizzt, as well as those he comes in contact with. Many of the characters in this have their preconceived biases against dark elves but Drizzt proves that he doesn’t quite fit the stereotype.

All in all, this isn’t great or all that memorable, but the series does feel as if it is improving and it gives me some hope for the final three volumes now that I’ve reached the mid-point.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 2: Exile

Published: August 19th, 2015
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 150 Pages

Review:

I thought that the first volume of this series was both fairly enjoyable but also pretty weak. This volume kicks things up a bit, as it moves on passed all the origin shit and gets Drizzt Do’Urden out into the world, where he has to survive without the help and protection of his own people, who are now hellbent on making him pay for his betrayal.

In this, Drizzt makes a friend and the two of them have to work together to survive the storm that’s coming. In the end, Drizzt has to basically fight a zombie version of his father, who trained him to be the warrior he is.

Beyond the story, the art is just okay.

I generally like Tim Seely’s work, as I loved the earliest Hack/Slash stuff a lot. However, when I see these Drizzt comics, it looks like he was either rushed by the publisher or he was stretched too thin over multiple projects and couldn’t give this series his full attention.

Overall, this is better than the previous installment but it’s also not living up to what I hoped this could be.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 1: Homeland

Published: February 25th, 2015
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 145 Pages

Review:

I’ve known about the character of Drizzt Do’Urden for a few decades. In fact, I own a few of the Forgotten Realms paperbacks with him on the cover but I never got around to reading them because I wanted the whole saga.

Well, many of those stories were adapted into comics by IDW, who have the publishing rights to the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. So, I figured that I’d read them and get a taste for the character and his pocket in the larger D&D universe.

This first volume serves as Drizzt’s origin story and while it’s interesting and pretty unique, it’s not super exciting. However, his story had to start somewhere and it’s important if you want to actually understand the character, his motivations and what kind of struggle he’s gone through before evolving into a legendary hero.

Reading this, I appreciated the level of world building that went into the story, as originally penned by the great R.A. Salvatore. This goes deep into the culture, beliefs, politics and history of Drizzt’s people, setting up a lot of potentially good stories to follow.

Still, this first volume didn’t captivate me in the way I was hoping but that’s fine. I still plan to read the six volumes that IDW put out because I already own them and because this character can now leave the nest and grow into the great character I’ve been told he is by many.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Documentary Review: Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019
Directed by: Kevin Slagle, Brian Stillman
Music by: Seth Polansky, Noah Potter

Cavegirl Productions, X-Ray Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

I recently read and reviewed a great book about the art of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. I had no idea there was also a documentary about the subject, which came out last year.

Coming across this recently on Prime Video, I immediately added it to my queue and moved it to the top of my list.

Overall, this is a damn good film on not just on the art of Dungeons & Dragons but also the history of the game, the company behind it, the key people involved, as well as the players and still growing fandom.

This well well produced, well edited and featured so many wonderful talking head interviews from just about all the key players, that it made this a really enriching experience.

Mostly, this just made me appreciate the hard work, creativity and craftsmanship that went into developing the game and its numerous expansions and spinoffs.

If you love fantasy art and/or the D&D brand, this is most certainly worth your time.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about pop culture art, unique fandoms and gaming.

Book Review: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History Book’ by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer

I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons, even though I was fascinated by it. My mum dumped the religion on me pretty hard and then by the time I was older and didn’t care about that, none of my friends really cared about playing D&D anymore.

I’ve always adored the franchise and everything within it, as I’ve always loved fantasy, especially sword and sorcery fiction and movies. I also dug the hell out of the cartoon when I was a kid, which I was actually allowed to watch for some reason.

This big, thick, hardcover masterpiece is a damn fine book to add to your collection. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, the artwork collected in this alone makes the book well worth the price tag.

One really cool thing about this is that it’s foreward was written by Joe Manganiello. Yes, that Joe Manganiello, who apparently was a massive D&D fan. Sam Witwer, another actor known for a lot of his sci-fi roles, also contributed to this.

This book covers a lot more than even its large size would imply. It shows the history of the property in just about all of its forms from early role-playing manuals to the animated series to video games to comics to books and just about every other medium and product that adorned the Dungeons & Dragons name.

I love this book. Right now, it’s on my coffee table. Granted, I should probably move it before someone with French fry fingers gets it all nasty. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: anything, from any media, about Dungeons & Dragons, as well as other big, hardcover art books on cool nerd shit.