Fell’s Five By: John Rogers (writer), Andrea Di Vito (art), Andrew Dalhouse (colors), Chris Mowry (letters)

Freedom by: Alex Irvine (writer), Peter Bergting (art), Ronda Pattison (colors), Chris Mowry (letters)

The Story: IDW establishes some characters to play with in their newest licensed property: Dungeons & Dragons

What’s Good: This two-part story is a pretty effective appetite wetter for anyone who wants more Dungeons & Dragons in their life.  Like a lot of (mostly) guys between the ages of 30-45 I spent a LOT of time leafing through Monster Manuals and rolling up character sheets.  In fact, I always thought that the weakness of D&D is that they had created such a cool world that was such a pain in the butt to access because you needed 5-6 guys and a lot of time to really do the story telling.

I probably enjoyed the first of these two stories a little better.  It is a quick ~10 page story of getting-the-party-together.  And it is a pretty cliché party if you’ve ever played D&D: human fighter, dwarf fighter, halfling thief, tiefling sorcerer & half-elven ranger.  I guess no one wanted to play the cleric and be restricted to using non-edged weapons and spending all their spells healing the rest of the party??  Still, there is a reason this is a pretty classic party configuration: it works.  The art in this portion is good (not great, but good).  One of the cool things that the creators did in this story (beyond having the party fight gnolls and a black dragon) was that the thief mutters to herself constantly and it serves as a reminder of various gameplay mechanics of the D&D universe.  For example, as the party is descending a staircase, she is muttering (quietly) “trap, trap, trap…” to show the constant “thief is searching for traps” mechanic of D&D and later, during a fight, she mutters (again in an under the breath sort of way) “Sneak around to the flank…Stab them in the back” to highlight some other mechanics of the game.  It is something that could get old, but it does ground this story firmly in the D&D world.  I think that’s important because that appeal to D&D players is the only reason for this comic’s existence and it shows that IDW isn’t just slapping D&D on the cover a generic fantasy comic.

Another thing that I found pretty cool was that at the end of the book, with the notes from the editor and interviews with the creator they include a full D&D stat entry for the young black dragon that features in the story.  I LOVE that because it again roots the comic in the D&D universe AND stops you from wondering just how intelligent the dragon is (12+3, if you must know).  No arguments about who is smarter in this comic!  [“No way…Reed Richards is totally smarter than Hank Pym!”]

What’s Not So Good: The story itself is nothing very special.  Without the hooks tying it to the famous RPG, this is just a ho-hum fantasy story.  So, the challenge for IDW will be to establish a fun story before they’ve exhausted the cool elements that I’ve read here.  If that happens, I can just go read the Dungeon Master’s Guide.  Especially given that the party isn’t exactly a novel mix of characters.

The second story isn’t doing much for me either, being set in the Dark Sun campaign setting.  There may be fans of Dark Sun out there, but I never cared for it as I had a hard enough time remembering all the mechanics of “normal” D&D without adding all of Dark Sun’s psyonic attacks.  The art isn’t as good on this story either.

Conclusion: It looks like IDW is doing a nice job with yet another licensed property.  Probably worth checking out if you’re an old-time D&D fan who doesn’t have 6 geeky friends and hours of idle time to actually play.

Grade: B-

– Dean Stell