Monday, March 21, 2011

World of Warcraft: Book One (comics)

Writer: Walt Simonson
Artist: Ludo Lullabi
Collects: World of Warcraft #1-7

I've never played World of Warcraft. I know, it's odd. I must be one of the three guys who haven't. But it's not even just that. I've never really paid attention to Warcraft, period. Of Blizzards franchises, I was always more interested in the others; your Starcrafts and Diablos. So why am I reading a World of Warcraft comic?

Well, the name "Walt Simonson" is a pretty good reason to give anything a fair shot.

The story follows a dark elf, an elf druid and a human they dub Croc-Bait, all three slaves to an orc who trains them to be gladiators. But slavery is not for them - or, well, anyone really - so naturally they decide to flip him the bird and escape. Since it quickly becomes apparent that there's more to Croc-Bait than meets the eye, they decide figuring out who he is and why he's important is as good an idea as any. Thus, it's time for our trio to get into trouble, because what else is going to happen?

Since, as I mentioned, I'm not at all familiar with Warcraft, I suspected it might take a while for me to get what was going on. Surprisingly, it was easy to catch on. The Warcraft universe appears to pull from some pretty standard fantasy tropes, which made it easy to get the gist of the races. The only thing I was particularly in the dark about is the characters. I assume the three are at least semi-important to the WoW universe - who Croc-Bait turns out to be is one of those things that seems to be one of those "this guy is from the game" deals - but how or why eludes me. Doesn't much matter; they're likable for the most part, even if Croc-Bait himself is a bit stiff a character.

As I expected he might, Simonson plays the long game. There's no real "story arc" to be found here; while a given issue might contain some measure of resolution or revelation, there's no real stop to the flow between issues. Issue seven ends with the three sailing onwards towards their next destination, more or less saying "buy the next volume". I like it; you don't always see much of this kind of thing anymore.

Overall, the book is pretty well written. It feels a bit old fashioned - the amount of dialogue and exposition makes it feel a bit more 80's than something from the 2000's - but that seems to fit it just fine. For some reason, that sort of writing goes well with fantasy and Simonson knows how to make it work for the book.

Now, Walt Simonson is a definite legend - his Thor run alone puts him at that level, but I'm also a sucker for Robocop vs Terminator - but he doesn't draw this. Ludo Lullabi - who the inside cover tells me is a French artist - does and manages to keep pace. I'd say his art is almost manga-esque in appearance. Lots of simple lines keep a clean look to the book that's rather appealing to the eye, especially great use of color all over the book. Lullabi's storytelling deserves some praise as well; action beats are easy to follow and flow well from panel to panel.

Speaking as someone who's not really knowledgeable about Warcraft, I was able to enjoy this volume just fine just as a fantasy themed ongoing. I imagine there's a lot here that will carry a lot of weight with actual Warcraft fans, but I was pleased with how readable it is on a basic level. I'm not sure just how much of that is Simonson and how much of it is the accessible nature of this variety of genre setting, but no doubt Simonson played a part.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

I don't know how much better this might be to a fan, but at the very least it's an enjoyable book from start to finish. Not even for a video game based comic. It's just enjoyable in general. I think it's worth giving a shot and I had a decent enough time once I got my head around the world I was presented with that I'll probably check out volume 2 at some point.

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