Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #1 is published by IDW. It comes from the creative team of writers Aimee Garcia and AJ Mendez, artist Martin Coccolo, colorist Katrina Mae Hao, and letterer Neil Uyetake. The story begins on a windswept mountain amid a blizzard. A lone carriage travels through the storm, carrying some sort of precious cargo. The inhabitants of the carriage begin to argue. Within minutes the argument has turned into a life or death battle.
A barbarian woman named Runa happens upon the wreckage an hour later. She finds the lone survivor, a man named Amos. The two are set upon by a gigantic beast known as a Remorhaz as they speak. The beast swallows the remains of the carriage and the barbarian jumps into battle with it. As she fights tooth and nail Amos reveals that he is not entirely helpless and casts offensive magic in an attempt to scare it off. But all hope is not lost, and soon enough Amos and Runa will find themselves embroiled in a grand adventure.
As an avid player of Dungeons & Dragons, I was excited to check out Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #1. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit quite as well as I’d hoped. Though there is a lot of potential for improvement as the series goes on. Garcia and Mendez do an excellent job of bringing the group together and giving them a quest to undertake. Seeing names of places I am familiar with, as well as watching the races and classes in action was a treat.
My main issue is that it all feels very safe. The characters behave exactly the way you would expect them to in a high fantasy story. There is the serious strong one, the wisecracker, and the pessimist. Had this been the first D&D comic series ever published, then this wouldn’t be an issue. But it isn’t. The fact that the characters are written as walking tropes ends up making the whole story feel rote and predictable. There are so many interesting and fun fantasy series out there, to see one of the most iconic titles presented with a thoroughly vanilla story was a disappointment.
The art by Coccolo is solid, but not without a few hiccups. The combat scenes are excellent. The action in the panels is clean and easy to follow while also being a treat to look at. Watching Runa go toe to toe with a Remorhaz was a great deal of fun. The use of nondescript backgrounds to keep the focus on the characters and the fight made each panel of combat extremely compelling. My only real complaint is Coccolo’s lack of consistency. There are some panels where the characters look wonderful, and others where their faces or bodies all seem very similar. At times I wondered if I would be able to tell some of them apart if not for the distinct features like horns and red skin.
The colors from Hao are wonderful and display a great variety of palettes. The colors for each character are distinct and help them each to pop and stand out. Additionally, the use of varying tones to show glowing from fire and magic was the perfect addition to the already dynamic panels. Uyetek’s letters are solid. At no point did I have difficulty reading the text. The bubbles were arranged perfectly to draw my eyes across the artwork as well.
Overall, Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #1 was fine but not excellent. There were plenty of parts and pieces that I really liked, the action and colors in particular. But the story felt like it was lacking the magic that makes high fantasy exciting. I’m hopeful that further issues will break out of the mold and allow the story to stand out a little bit. As it stands now, I can really only recommend this to die-hard fantasy lovers or fantasy fans who need a palate cleanser.
Dungeons & Dragons: At The Spine of the World #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.
Dungeons & Dragons: At The Spine of the World #1
Overall, Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World #1 was fine but not excellent, the story felt like it was lacking the magic that makes high fantasy exciting.