Reviewer: â€œStarmanâ€ Matt Morrison
Story Title: Love, HackMaster Style
Written by: Mark Plemmons
Penciled and Plotted by: Brendon & Brian Fraim
Inked by: Brendon & Brian Fraim
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: Brendon & Brian Fraim
Editors: Brian Jelke & Eric Engelhard
Publisher: Kenzer And Company
Scene: Exterior, Day. A high cliff, before a vast cave in the mountains. A party of adventurers find a caged-man outside the cave, screaming about the monsters inside the cave that will eat him if he is not let free. The party leader, a warrior of high virtue, asks the party rogue to silence the caged-man before their advantage of surprise is given away. The rogue smugly replies, â€œYour wish is my consideration,â€ before breaking the lock of the cage with a skillfully thrown dagger. The man jumps from the cage, cheering at his newfound freedom before sadly loosing his balance and rolling off the cliff-side with an â€œAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGH!â€ The rogue, hands in his pockets, turns to the warrior and asks, â€œWas that my fault?â€
The scene above is taken from Where Shadows Fall #3; an officially endorsed Dungeons and Dragons comic released this week from Kenzer And Company. In addition to making a number or role-playing modules and humorous games (they were responsible for the Monty Python card game â€œTaunt You A Second Timeâ€ a few years ago) publish the entire line of Knights of the Dinner Table comics. I make mention of this fact, because another comic they published this week was Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated #29 and â€œShadowsâ€, despite being a serious story about adventurers trying to rescue a kidnapped woman who is not quite so unwitting a captive as her father thinks, has a lot more laughs than the comedic â€œIllustrated.â€
The plot here is pretty dull stuff. The new Untouchable Trio Plus One (The Plus One in this case being the female warrior Thornia) has been separated, with Knuckles the Thief, Teflon Billy the Mage and Thornia going off into the mountains on a quest to recover the King’s stolen crown. El Ravager, the party muscle and heart, if not the brains (â€œDude, where’s my sword?â€) stays behind to act as personal bodyguard to the Princess Willow, after saving her from a gnoll attack; a task he must repeat as the issue opens. But things are, as always, not what they seemâ€¦and when the rest of the â€œTrioâ€ find themselves trapped in a cave with trolls on one side, a poisonous fog on the other and lava very quickly surrounding them all, they can only conclude that they were sent into a trap.
I commented some months back about how this book had been taking a more serious turn and how a lot of the comedy was slowly disappearing from the book. I thought this had been corrected in recent months when, for the two issues following the show-stopping Issue #25, the book followed the exploits of The Black Hands.
The Black Hands are a slightly less-honorable group of adventurers than the usual heroes of the book, The Untouchable Trio Plus One. The Trio (Knuckles the Thief, Teflon Billy the Mage and El Ravager the Fighter) may be a group of uncouth morons who kill first and don’t bother to ask questions later, but they do have a severe sense of loyalty to each other. The Black Hands, by contrast, hold loyalty only to their individual selves and see the rest of their party as one more sucker to fleece. Indeed, Issue #27 was purely about how Rasputin the Assassin kept finding reasons to kill the newest additions to the party and then loot the bodies for fun and profit.
Darn amusing stuff and all the more missed after reading this dull issue where the funniest scene involves El Ravager’s reasons for not drawing his sword while fighting the gnollsâ€”he used his sword as a knife when preparing a jelly sandwich and didn’t clean it before sheathing the blade.
The art, by Brandon & Brian Fraim (who also plotted this issue in addition to doing the cover) is still up to the usual high standard. They have a sense of visual storytelling that is among the best in the business and a definite sense of motion to every panel. It only becomes dull when you read the dialogue.