Pullbox Reviews: Rick & Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons II: Painscape

When super genius alcoholic megalomaniac Rick Sanchez wakes up to a world that’s obsessed with D&D, he embarks on a mission to put things right. In doing so, he discovers the unthinkable: through an alliance of all of the characters he’d created but never played over the years, the fiendish Bardrick has conspired to infiltrate the real world. His overriding goal is to prove once and for all how wrong Rick was for tossing him aside all those years ago. Now banished to Bordensomethingsomething, an unfinished campaign setting of his own design, Rick is gonna have to go meta… level up his game… roll the natural 20. To do any less is to doom his family as they’re left to contend with the encroaching forces of Bardrick and his demonic horde.

There’s a strange phenomenon happening out there lately, and some of you may know what I’m talking about. A surge in popularity for the original table top roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons has been bringing gamers out of hiding and onto their very own YouTube and Twitch channels. Now a pastime with mass appeal, obliterating stereotypes and demographic lines, D&D isn’t just for nerds anymore but stands as one of the most marketable hobby lines out there. A whole new generation of players has stumbled into D&D by way of Critical Role and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Joe Manganiello and Matthew Lillard. It’s been featured on television shows like Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory, not as a point of ridicule but as a glorious example of a game that relies on shared narrative to collectively tell a story.

Jim Zub’s a busy dude. On top of his work for Marvel (Conan the Barbarian: Serpent War, Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda) and IDW (pick any of the many Dungeons & Dragons licensed comics), he’s been working with Wizards of the Coast on introductory rulebooks for young gamers. With all of that, he still manages to find the time for another deep dive that takes Rick & Morty back into the world of fantasy roleplaying (stop snickering, Andy, it’s not that kind of roleplaying). Zub balances the basics of good storytelling with a plethora of references to satisfy the rules lawyers out there. For some readers, it might be a little too specific, but where he goes really heavy into game mechanics he provides helpful text to explain things to those less familiar. Equally important to fans of the show, Zub has nailed the tone and attitudes of the characters of Rick & Morty. All of the elements are there: Beth’s quiet alcoholism, Morty’s neurotic acceptance of Rick’s abuse, Rick’s nihilistic egomania & blatant disdain for Jerry.

Also walking one helluva tightrope, the artistic team of Troy Little (illustrations), Leonardo Ito (colors), &

Crank! (letters) have put up some seriously impressive work. Consider the blending of visual styles that goes into a comic like this, bringing in elements from countless fantasy worlds & fusing them with a cartoon that has a fan following fanatical enough to swarm (literal mobs) fast food restaurants worldwide for dipping sauce. Troy Little & Leonardo Ito both deserve sainthood for their efforts, nailing the look of Rick & Morty, and working in all of the fantasy game elements besides. Finally, Crank! deserves some big time kudos for their work on lettering. There’s an insanely large amount of information rolling across the page, by way of text and dialogue, in various styles. That it was all artistically managed without blocking out whole panels speaks to the skill involved at the top levels of a field that goes unnoticed all too often in comics.

In the first chapter of R&MvsD&D, Zub put out a story that could have served as an all-encompassing intro to the world of Dungeons & Dragons, from its very first incarnation, through AD&D, to the Dark Times of 4e (we don’t like talking about 4e). Now he’s brought readers firmly into the modern age of 5th Edition, while giving old school gamers nods and winks to acknowledge that we’ve been here all along (I still have my original Red Box set). From THAC0 to “rolling with Advantage”, the nerd train is moving along and shows no signs of slowing down.

A heartfelt thank you needs to go out to this creative team, and the folks who really make a crossover like this possible… the people who hold all the copyrights: adult swim (Rick & Morty), Wizards of the Coast (Dungeons & Dragons), & IDW (licensed D&D comicbooks… many of them written by Zub).

Until Rick & Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons, Chapter 3Is it Wednesday yet?

Final Score: 10+

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