Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Max Dunbar
Colors: Sebastian Cheng
Lettering: Neil Uyetake
Covers By: Max Dunbar (Super-special Minsc Character Sheet cover assisted by Jim Zub!)
Available: Wednesday, December 11
Out next week from IDW, the comics publishing arm of Wizards of the Coast, is the first issue in their latest Dungeons & Dragons title, Infernal Tides. Set to parallel elements of the WotC Descent into Avernus adventure sourcebook (on which series writer Jim Zub served as story consultant), this offering features the ongoing adventures of gigantic ranger Minsc, his miniature giant space hamster compatriot Boo and their band of merry fellows.
Hmm…the world’s greatest role-playing game, set to comic format, featuring the cult-fave hero of probably my favorite computer RPG series of all time, tying in one of the more fascinating long-format modules yet offered by WotC and written by JIM-FREAKING-ZUB? Why, yes-thank-you-more-please!
This time around, Minsc, Boo, Delina, Shandie, Kryndle and Nerys find themselves drawn into a plot surrounding a mysterious puzzle box, which is somehow related to the millennia-old Blood War between the demons and devils of the Lower Planes. Minsc, Boo and Delina intervene with heroic heroicness when they witness paladin of Torm Alistair Lucent and his daughter and paladin-in-training Aubree being accosted by Haruman, dread Knight of Zariel, and his nightmare steed in the street market of Baldur’s Gate. They are able to safeguard Aubree and the mysterious package her father was intent on guarding, but Sir Lucent is taken.
Well, and then, you’re going to have to read for yourself. Trust me, it’ll be worth the time and coin.
Infernal Tides offers us, in typical Jim Zub style, a great segue into what promises to be a fun, exciting and rich tale. Adventure and intrigue abound, expertly seasoned with just the right dose of humor. While I’ve not yet played Descent into Avernus, I envision my group’s theatre of the mind sessions looking essentially like this (only with us, there’d be more fire, and buckets more salty language)—which is just as IDW, WotC and Zub want it: the comic serves as a marketing tool for the sourcebook and for D&D as a whole, while serving as stirring entertainment in its own right. In less capable hands, it’s frankly a recipe for disaster (go ahead and read some of Marvel’s movie adaptations from the ‘80’s as a case in point, I dare you); under Zub, Dunbar, Cheng and Uyetake’s deft guidance, however, we’ve got a compelling tale of sword and sorcery which should appeal not just to the polyhedral die-rolling crowd, but any fantasy enthusiast.
In his press offering, Zub describes the growth of Max Dunbar’s art from 2014’s Legends of Baldur’s Gate to Infernal Tides as an impressive journey—and he’s not wrong. It was fun if occasionally a bit rough around the edges (yes, I’m being a little nit-picky in order to make my point here; back off!) way back in Legends. As excited as I was to have Minsc back butt-kicking for justice, he just seemed a tiny bit off. Dunbar’s Infernal Tides work, though, especially with Cheng’s vivid colors, absolutely pops. The pages are gorgeous. The best compliment I can give it, is that THIS is what Dungeons and Dragons looks like to me. Really strong work. And good ol’ Minsc? Spot-on.
And Zub, as always, is fantastic. Layered and well-paced, we get glimpses of the horror to come and just enough information to leave us tantalized for more—and the fact that Tides is a D&D-based comic is doubly fun: I found myself examining elements of the story from both the perspective of a great fantasy tale certainly, but also as a gamer (“what’s the CR on that evil knight guy?” “wonder what the enchantment is on his bad-ass sword that I’m totally going to steal for my next campaign run?”), which multiplies the value of the experience. Character development is strong and never heavy-handed, and there’s enough D&D referents to keep any Gygaxian ancestor twirling their d20’s, without ever bogging down the flow of the story. And it certainly helps that Uyetake’s lettering is both effective and inobtrusive (and where he gets to be, bombastic and dramatic) enough to convey the volume of information and dialogue packed into this one issue without disrupting its flow and visual appeal–rather, adding to it–which is no small feat.
Frankly, I don’t know how Jim Zub does it: as Paul will be posting in the very near future, he’s also helming a fascinating new Conan/Moon Knight miniseries along with Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda for Marvel in addition to his consulting work with Wizards of the Coast and whatever else he’s got cooking. I try to chew gum while writing my shopping list, and I end up spraining an ankle; I personally suspect cloning is involved, or at least a really well-differentiated and high-functioning dissociative identity disorder, but that’s just me…
Now, you don’t have to have read any of the previous IDW Dungeons and Dragons arcs by Zub (Legends of Baldur’s Gate, Shadows of the Vampire, Frost Giant’s Fury and Evil at Baldur’s Gate) to understand this one…but you’ll be a better person and lead a more complete and satisfying life for having done so. And if we’re about one thing here at the Pullbox, it’s making people more whole and helping them lead more satisfying lives. Or was it eating less carbs? I should really pay more attention at staff meetings…
Regardless, get thee to thine comic shop (or Amazon, or Comixology) and get to ordering, knave (ooh! And make sure to order the special Minsc Character Sheet Cover-you can thank me later)! Trust me, it will be gold pieces well spent!
Review by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com