Non-spoiler review of World of Warcraft: Dark Riders

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Non-spoiler review of World of Warcraft: Dark Riders

Postby Sayomara » Mon May 06, 2013 8:01 pm

Back on December 16, 2009, the last issues of the World of Warcraft: The Comic was published. At the time, it was supposed to mark a change in the comic. Rather than being one comic, it would be two comics. World of Warcraft: The Alliance and World of Warcraft: The Horde, both as an ongoing series. Jump forward a few months and both the Alliance comic and the Horde comic were canceled as ongoing series, but we are given the promise they were now going to be graphic novels. Then the waiting started. I can't image many were waiting too long, since in the time it took Blizzard and DC comics to get their act together to publish this comic, they published Ashbringer, Curse of the Worgen, and Pearl of Pandaria.

If you are a long time follower of my old blog, you might remember back in 2011 when I broke the story that these books were still in production, since Jheremy Raapack, the artist, was talking about the Horde book on his blog. However, it wasn't until the San Diego Comic Con 2011 that we got official word that both the Alliance and Horde comics were still, in fact, in the works and the had been renamed Dark riders and Bloodsworn, respectively. Then back in February when I talked to Mickey Nelson he said they were still doing the art on Dark riders. So, knowing all that on May 7, 2013 we finally get to see the story of some of the characters that were introduced almost three and half years ago. Lets take a look.

World of Warcraft: Dark riders
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Neil Googe
Colorist: Perre Matterne, Lee Loughride and Len O'Grady
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Story Consultants: Chris Metzen, Alex Afrasiabi, Luis Barriga and Micky Neilson
Cover: Alex Horley and Samwise Didier
Publisher: DC Entertainment
Cover Price: $24.99

Opening of the Story
This review will be non-spoiler, a full spoiler review will be done on Grand Old Podcast Episode 97, to give everyone time to read it. Set before the Cataclysm, our story begins when a young warrior named Mardigan enters the Lion’s Pride inn to meet with an Alchemist, an errand he has done many times before. Before they can finish their transaction, another man interrupts them, and our young warrior can't help but pick a fight. Marshal Dughan breaks up the fight and takes Mardigan before his father Karlain, to inform them about the fight and if it happens again the Marshal can't protect him.

It should be noted before I go on, that in Tides of War we find out who are current members of the Counsel of Six, the leaders of the Kirin Tor. Karlain is named as one of them. This book shows why Karlain might have been chosen for such a high position.

There is clear strife between Karlain and Mardigan dating back to the death of Mardigan’s mother. Rather than settle what seems to be an old fight, Karlain simply tells Mardigan to get the materials he was supposed to get on the first trip, while he took care of other business.

A little bit more:
To keep this as spoiler free is possible, I'll say the rest of the book involves the conflict between Karlain and Mardigan, the Dark riders and their search for rare artifacts. Revil Kost,the priest with a score to settle, and Brink, the gnome rogue and member of SI: 7 who has his own plans for the relics of the Dark riders. Of course we finally find out the missing part of the story about the Scythe of Elune. There are also some nice bits in Westfall and with the Night watch of Dustwood, which remind you of how much and how little things has changed with the Cataclysm in World of Warcraft.

The Art:
There is no way getting around this. The art in this issue is highly inconsistent. I'm not sure what to chalk this up too. The long development of the book, changing ideas of characters or to much input. I would love to know more about the development story behind this book, but for now we can only guess. The art of Elwynn Forest is lovingly done with detail on every aspect of the area. In fact, the art is done is such a style as to almost be distracting, because of its plastic look. However, this quickly falls away as we start seeing less and less detail, backgrounds become ovals and squares with few other details. If I had to guess this is based on the fact this comic was originally meant to be a monthly comic and was planed for January of 2010 before it was cancelled and changed to graphic novel. I would guess most of the Elwynn Forest art would have comprised the first issue. However that is just a guess on my part based on early art that was released.

The other issue is lines drawn on the face of character don't equal emotion. I mean Mr. Googe goes crazy throughout this issue just covering faces with meaningless lines. I think he was trying to convey darkness, but all he really does is make his characters look stupid. The character that suffers the most for this is Karlain, who just looks stupid for much of the comic. It’s hard not to compare the Karlain in Beginnings and Ends and not feel a bit disappointed to say nothing of covers not reflecting the insider art at all. Granted this has been a common theme of the Warcraft Comics


All that said the Dark riders are effectively realized, and much of the action has a nice weight to it. But overall the art just left we wanting, and feels like a real step down from last few graphic novels Blizzard/DC has published.

Overall thoughts

I'm a huge fan of the Warcraft: Legends anthology series, not because it has such big stories but because often the stories are small and feel like they are on the player character level of storytelling. Much of this tale feels like it could be a group of players out on a quest in Eastern Kingdoms. In terms of scale, I would put it somewhere between the manga story Warrior: Unitedby Grace Randolph and Ashbringer by Micky Neilson. Its a big multi part adventure, but as far as overall impact on the Warcraft Universe, its minimal. We get to find out back story about the Dark riders, and missing history of the Scythe of Elune, but other than that, this book can be passed on without fearing of missing some major story beats. It fact,I would say that is the book’s greatest asset and its weakness. Its loyal to small details of Azeroth, as a player might find them in game. But at the same time when you come out of this story you come out with a much smaller story than we as readers have gotten use to from the Warcraft graphic novels.

I would rate this 3 of 5 Doomhammers

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"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand-strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, and screaming WOW-What a RIDE!"
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