Review: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 and 2

I’m just branching out all over the place this month it seems. This is the first time have done a review for a comic on an issue basis, so bear with me.

That said, I’m going to make a confession here – I’ve not finished Baldur’s Gate. I know its status as one of the all-time great Dungeons & Dragons games, and I’ve enjoyed what I have played of it, but I will admit, I’m far from an expert on it.

So I went into reading these issues without the complete BG experience on the advice of a fellow MP reviewer that it would still be accessible. He wasn’t kidding.

Legends of Baldurs Gate Cover

A review copy was provided by Jim Zub.

Even if you’ve never played D&D before – Hell, even if you have no idea in the slightest of what D&D is, this comic isn’t going to be a problem for you. This is thanks in large part to the fact Jim Zub has created a very accessible story and setting. You could approach this as a completely fresh fantasy story and still get into it.

Part of this is thanks to the fact that, as far as the first two issues, the story takes place the better part of a century after the events of the first two games. Much of the original cast are, as a result, quite absent. In fact, the most direct call back this comic makes to the game comes care of a magical hiccup that brings fan favorites Minsc (now heralded by the people of Baldur’s Gate as the Beloved Ranger) and Boo back to life.

The best part of this is, even if you’ve never touched BG before, Minsc’s appearance won’t be confusing to you. They’ve done a good job of establishing who he is within the context of the first two issues just from people’s responses to him. To that end, Zub has perfectly nailed why he’s a favorite character. He’s easily the most enjoyable person in the story at this point, even if you didn’t know of his reputation.

With a personality like this, it's no surprise he was the one they found a way to bring back.

With a personality like this, it’s no surprise he was the one they found a way to bring back.

Minsc’s colleagues are still being established as characters, but they’re off to some decent starts:

Our main character for the series is actually Delina – a young (for her kind) elvish sorceress who’s come to the city of Baldur’s Gate to find her twin brother. While she hasn’t really gone all in making as bold an impression as Minsc, that honestly works for her character. What she has is the makings of an interesting protagonist – she can be a bit more reserved or hesitant with the often unintentionally blunt Minsc, but she’s far from a pushover.

For someone whom when we meet is already in over her head, she’s shown a knack for thinking on her feet. This has lead to some humor, as Minsc believes her to be someone known as Neera (because they haven’t had time for her to sit him down and explain otherwise) and that has me genuinely interested in seeing more of her in the future.

Rounding out the team (so far) are Krydle and Shandie, a pair of thieves. Given we’ve only just met them in the second issue, I’m still getting a feel for them, but they’re not too bad. If nothing else, their more mercenary tendencies make for some other interesting personas to play off of the Delina and Minsc dynamics.

Also, this was a nice touch. Really, I give any writer points for being able to work in the gaming flavor if they can do it in a way that doesn't take you out of the story.

Also, this was a nice touch. Really, I give any writer points for being able to work in the gaming flavor if they can do it in a way that doesn’t take you out of the story.

Besides establishing an interesting team, the first two issues sport some good artwork by Max Dunbar with color by John Paul-Bove and Joana Lafuente. The cast all have distinctive looks to them, even for smaller roles, that helps make them look distinctive. Also, based on the chase in the first issue and the fight in the second, Dunbar has potential to do well in laying out action scenes in future issues – and let’s face it, for a Dungeons and Dragons storyline, those are gonna come about.

One other little touch I have to give the art in the second issue is with regards to the flashback that it starts with – with just a few touches such as some brighter colors and more notable sunbeams, Paul-Bove and Lafuente do good work distinguishing the look of the forests of Delina’s youth from the buildings and stone walkways of Baldur’s Gate.

About the only grievance I could say I have with this comic visually so far is, admittedly, a minor one – I don’t know if this is being done as a stylistic choice or not, but Dunbar has a tendency in certain scenes to scale back the amount of detail on characters to a noticeable, and distracting, level. It doesn’t happen too often, thankfully, but when our heroes are walking down a street and their faces are eerily lacking any features, it’s a bit unsettling.

Ah, the old 'Faceless Campaign' Favored by only the most dickish of DMs for the staggering number of roll penalties it subjects the party to.

Ah, the old ‘Faceless Campaign’
favored by only the most dickish of DMs for the staggering number of roll penalties it subjects the party to.

But, we’re still early into the run, so that could be fixed in the future. In the meantime, for something I was admittedly not sure of going in, I’m liking this so far. Even if you’re a total Dungeons and Dragons neophyte, it’s handled in such a way that you can still enjoy it just as well as an experienced d20 slinger if you’re in the mood for a straight up fantasy adventure comic. I’m going to be keeping an eye on this one to see where it goes from here, because this is a promising start.

…and NOW it’s back to my usual work!

Pros:

-Promising start with a likable cast

-Very accessible for newcomers to the world of Baldur’s Gate

Cons:

-Given it’s still early, much of the cast not really developed just yet

-The details sacrificed in some wider shots create unintentionally creepy effects

Rating: 3.5/5

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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