DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: AT THE SPINE OF THE WORLD #1, available from IDW Publishing on November 11th, starts a new campaign to hunt for magical plants that will save a town from wintry starvation. Writers Aimee Garcia and AJ Mendez assume the role of dungeon masters to set up a standard but enjoyable D&D adventure straight from the pages of Icons of the Realm: Icewind Dale.
Martin Coccolo’s art and Katrina Mae Hao’s colors make for an exciting cover. The barbarian and the archer (Saarvin – another nod to the source material) run to escape the remorhaz, and Hao’s choice to mute the beast’s coloring keeps focus on the heroes and amplifies the difference between the background and foreground. The coloring works well to give the already excellent painting greater depth.
Garcia and Mendez’s story is standard fare for a sword and sorcery adventure. Characters are introduced in rapid order with their roles clearly defined. Each introduction is matched with a dangerous conflict so characters can showcase their skills, and the quest is made clear without too much complication or fluff.
Garcia and Mendez push to do better than a standard campaign through the sub-plot, hinting at an unseen villain mining dangerous gems for an as yet unrevealed purpose. Overall, this is much better than the average campaign, and it’s refreshing to see writers pay proper respect to the source material.
Coccolo’s artwork is outstanding in this issue for one reason above all others. Everything feels like it’s in constant motion. This is an energetic book from start to finish, and Coccolo plays up the energy and speed in every panel. Dog crews race through blasting blizzard winds. Party members are fighting off dangerous beasts and drunken townsfolk with a bone to pick.
You barely have time to take a breath before you’re off to the next leg of the campaign, but the art never looks sloppy or feels rushed. Coccolo put the time in to make the art high quality and cinematic, and it makes this first issue visually satisfying.
Hao’s color work on the internal pages is just as expert and beautiful as the cover art. Colors on every page and well-balanced between the characters, their costumes, and the backgrounds. In particular, the glowing effect on the malignant gems coming from the mine is really well done and adds strong visual interest.
Neil Uyetake’s lettering is clean, clear, and well-paced. The kerning and leading make this issue exceptionally easy to read, and although there are no sound effects of any kind in the book, it didn’t detract from the story in any way. A great example of “less is more.”
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: AT THE SPINE OF THE WORLD #1, available from IDW Publishing on November 11th, delivers the goods on a rock-solid D&D story. The writing holds up against the best dungeon masters, and the art is captivating. I highly recommend this book.