Review: Forgotten Realms: Cutter #1 by R.A. Salvatore, Geno Salvatore, and David Baldeon

Dungeons & Dragons Cutter #1 Preview 1

D&D Forgotten Realms: Cutter #1
Writer – R.A. Salvatore and Geno Salvatore
Artist – David Baldeon
Colorist – David Garcia Cruz
Letterer – Neil Uyetake
Editor – John Barber
Cover Price – $3.99

I first came across Dungeons and Dragons in the third grade, when someone gave me an old Monster Manual. It came into my life around the same time Final Fantasy on the NES did, and I was able to make the comparisons instantly. I didn’t actually play D&D, but I read that book cover to cover, over and over. I studied the monsters as if they were real threats. I admired the art and tried to copy it. I found things like Mimics and floor monsters ridiculous, and night hags terrifying. It was my portal into the fantasy world, and the fact Final Fantasy liberally borrowed from this tome was great to me, as that was how I experienced it for myself. Later that year I read The Hobbit for the first time. A friend of mine had been given it for Christmas and couldn’t stand it’s nonsense. However, I was armed with Monster Manual and Light Warrior knowledge, and I took to it instantly.

That was how I fell in love with fantasy realms and swords and sorcery and wyverns and displacer beasts. Years later I would play the tabletop game (which urged me into other realities of cyberpunk and superheroes), and the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter games, and I read the novels from Forgotten Realms to Dragonlance, and to this day I still collect rule books just to read them, even if I don’t have a group to play with at this moment.

The thing I noticed about Cutter #1 is that none of that mattered to the story. It helps to like drow and spells, yes, but you don’t need to like dungeons or dragons to enjoy it. It’s the first chapter of a solid comic, and a wonderful example of the medium’s potential.

Like all good fantasies, weapons have names, and the sword concerned in this story is Cutter. It is a blade with a bloodied history and is now being passed on to a new owner. The half-dark elf (drow) Teiflin is set against his sister Doum’wielle for the honor of wielding it. Doum’wielle has the patience and martial skill to not only best her brother, but end up as the sentient sword’s preference in the first place. The fairness of the victory is debatable, and Teiflin’s pride lures him into jealousy and the inevitable confrontation.

It’s standard fantasy fare, but what sets it apart is Cutter. The sentient sword is a character in itself, and it has motives of it’s own. The second half of the issue and the cliffhanger are predictably tragic, though it’s really what happens after this set up that draws my attention and makes this issue worth your time. After all, this is a tale of dark elves and family tragedy woven by R.A. Salvatore. He knows a little about these things.

Salvatore is famous for his dark elf anti-hero and bane of roleplaying veterans Drizzt Do’Urden. His script is co-penned by his son, Geno Salvatore, and this isn’t their first collaboration on dark elves and death marks. The script moves along at a brisk but fulfilling pace, hitting all the necessary beats and characterization, while also seeding future conflicts in the midst of executing the Hero’s Journey. The recap at the front of the issue to familiarize yourself with the world is compelling, if unnecessary. The first few pages of set up may be intimidating to those who flinch away from elaborate fantasy names, but the history we need to know in itself is condensed accessibly, and the writers do a great job of narrowing the focus of the story and highlighting what’s important. The Forgotten Realms are deep and rich with content, and if something happens to catch your eye, IDW and Wizards of the Coast have a wealth of resources for you. If you don’t care and just like elf sword-maidens and malevolent whispering blades, you’re comfortable and ready to go.

David Baldeon renders our heroine and, most importantly, the setting, with gorgeous depth. I believe fantasy comics (and sci fi, and Western, and…) need a different pacing and tone than other genres to help sell the content, and Baldeon really underlines that thought. From the breezy meadows to lush forests, from the elves with strange armor to the beds they sleep in, everything about the world is designed and executed believably. The sword fights that book end the issue even have a different flow than the stand super hero fight scenes we’re numb to, and he captures body language and expressions so perfectly, it’s as if he had everything on film and was able to choose which precise frame he wanted for maximum impact.
The colors by David Garcia Cruz complement Baldeon’s lines perfectly. The world looks lively and active, with vibrant nature, moody metals, and some reserved sun light effects. The colors are crisp and not overly rendered, which makes the art as a whole bold and surreal enough that we feel we’re peering into another realm.

D&D Cutter #1 might not break any new ground yet, but it’s a fun and satisfying first issue for Forgotten Realms fans and curious new readers alike. The heroine and her talking sword are interesting, the potential problems and conspiracies presented at the end have me looking forward to the next issue, and the presentation is consistent with IDW’s best books. The Salvatores have an intriguing tale presented by some beautiful pages that not only do the license justice, but conjure up relatable characters and a lived in world to explore. That alone is worth the price of admission for the next issue.

Cutter is available today on shelves and on Comixology, and I highly suggest it. A preview of this comic book can be found here.

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