by Daron Patton
Dungeons and Dragons: ShadowPlague (Volume 1)
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by John Rogers
Art by Andrea Di Vito
Dungeons and Dragons: ShadowPlague presents the first six
chapters (Volume 1) in IDW Publishing's comic book series of the same
title. Just released in July 2011, this hardcover collection is
stylistically presented to look like the current D&D Fourth
Edition supplements and weighs in at around 130 pages. In fact,
it's very easy to think this is a Wizards of the Coast game product when
you're seeing it on the bookshelf.
I waited to pick up this collection because I was having a hard time
finding the individual comics locally. It was well worth the wait and
the book gives you additional game related material that may not be
provided in the individual comics. The first volume covers the exploits
of your typical D&D adventuring group in Fourth Edition's
default setting of the Nentir Vale. My assessment of classes is based
on actual exposition and best estimate. The group is supposed to be
around 7th level, in game terms.
Specifically set in the town of Fall Crest, ShadowPlague
introduces us to Adric, a male human fighter and leader of the group;
Khal, a male dwarven paladin; Varis, a male elven ranger; Tish, a female
tiefling warlock; and Bree, a female halfling thief. The group is
reasonably competent but with enough failure and friendly in-fighting to
accurately reflect many veteran roleplaying parties.
The artwork is stunning from cover to interior. Andrea Di Vito is the
interior artist and every page beautifully communicates the look and
feeling of the setting and characters. The cover art is by Wayne
Reynolds, a current favorite on many RPG products, and another reason
why I thought this was purely a game supplement when I saw it on the
shelf. In addition to the story art, there are several covers included
(from the individual comics) along with some character concept/studies.
All of it is excellent.
If you like your heroes less than perfect and perfectly willing to rip
on their team mates and themselves, random passersby, etc., then there's
a good chance ShadowPlague will interest you. Adric's plans are
usually awry. We have the tried – and admittedly sometimes tired –
elf/dwarf banter, including the only stereotype I was kind of annoyed
with (the dwarf goes Scottish brogue sometimes). The halfling thief is
always super greedy and brings to mind the old saying about thieves and
honor. The tiefling, as a semi-new character race, is kind of novel
while still covering the dark and brooding vibe. If you're a fan of
Firefly, Buffy, Leverage, Warehouse 13, etc. – ensemble casts of smart
alecks who have adventures on the way to making things right – there's
something in here for you.
In short, story-wise you get a reasonably good-hearted crew motivated by
mercenary and personal drives to seek out the crazy adventure that these
five face. The pacing is well executed, blending exposition and action
in a natural way that advances the story as it also explains why these
people are what they are and do what they do. This volume ends on a
cliffhanger and I'm looking forward to Volume 2.
The final portion of the book takes scenes from the story and translates
them into encounters that an RPG group can use to play out the combat
and exploration that the ShadowPlague group meets. This is a nice bit
of bonus material for folks who play the current edition and possibly
want to mine the story for their own campaigns.
This volume is great entertainment and well worth the price, in my
opinion. If you like comics, D&D or are just a fan of a good
story, I recommend checking this out.