Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shadow Wing: The Dragons of Outland Review

Let me start out by saying that I am not a big fan of Manga. I prefer my books to be words that allow ME to visualize the story rather than having it all laid out for me in black and white pictures. Further more I don't much care for Richard A. Knaak because he has a habit of making his crafted characters the main focus rather than already established lore figures. But I keep trying, hoping that maybe the next one I read will make me a convert. So laying all my prejudices out there for you before we begin this review, know that I am rather jaded. Also, while I try to keep my reviews rather general there will be spoilers so if you want to wait until you can read it for yourself, watch for the alert and skip the rest.

Shadow Wing the first of the Dragon's of Outland series is a Manga done by the same team that did the Sunwell Trilogy, Richard Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim. The main characters are the disillusioned human paladin Jorad Mace and Tyrygosa (Tyri), an arrogant and impulsive blue dragon. These two were supporting characters during the Sunwell Trilogy and now move on to a story of their own. The idea was this series would explain why players NOW find them in Netherstorm on the Celestial Ridge working as quest givers. In addition the delay in publication was explained as an attempt to tie what is happening currently with Malygos and the Blue Dragon flight into the series.

Lets start with the Artwork.  One thing I noticed is the facial expressions in this book are actually quite good. You have a reasonable understanding when things are being discussed in anger, frustration or despair. All that aside I STILL think this artist makes the males WAY to effeminate. To the point that there are times that if they weren't wearing hooves and spouting horns I would have mistaken some of the Draenei for Blood Elves. At least the Broken and Orcs have more rounded or square looking chins. At times the "splash" effects obscured the action for me to the point I felt it was more distracting than adding to the over all story.  The armor worn by the characters (with the exception of Tyri) looks similar to that seen in the actual game so while the head proportions are at times a little small, it isn't much different from what we see on line.

Since Knaak is responsible for the majority of the books dealing with Outland you would expect there to be some sort of flow and connection between such works as his novel "Night of the Dragon" and this. In addition since this series is just NOW getting released after much delay you expect it to pay attention to the lore established in the Burning Crusade expansion. Especially considering the explanation was that these books would be filling in some of the lore holes between Burning Crusade and the current content. While there ARE some tie ins there are also some gaping lore changes. This is something Mr. Knaak is famous for.

Spolier Alter, the following contains more detailed descriptions of the book, proceed at your own risk. 

The story begins shortly after the end of the Sunwell Trilogy when the companions of that series parted ways. Jorad joins the Alliance forces as they head into the Dark Portal attempting to push the Burning Legion back.  Interestingly he openly refers to himself as "A Knight of the Silver Hand" even though that organization would have officially been disbanded by this time. In addition to this the Alliance meets up with the Draenei shortly AFTER they enter the Dark Portal and before they even make it to Honor Hold.  Offering themselves as allies against the demons. (So lets just COMPLETELY ignore the established lore changes previously set.)

Jorad is a man with something to prove and everyone is hampering his efforts. Eventually through a series of circumstances he ends up attempting to make it to Honor Hold alone. Of course this brilliant plan doesn't work and just as it appears he will parish help arrives from an unexpected source. Tyrygosa swoops in and rescues him. Shocked to see the LAST person he expected to set eyes on, Jorad then proceeds to abandon all that he originally was so focused on that he would risk it all, to continuing the REST of the book committed to Tyri's agenda. The supposed reason for this complete turn around? He has a crush on the Blue Dragon.

Tyri it is explained is in Outland following her OWN agenda. Apparently she slipped through the Dark Portal at the same time as Jorad disguising herself as a member of the High Elf Contingent. Wait what...HIGH elf contingent? Yep, even though the High Elves are established lore as basically bordering on extinction, hiding away in just a few minor outposts with NO official connection to the Alliance at ALL, there is suppose to have been an entire CONTINGENT of them going through the Dark Portal with the Alliance AND the Horde....Riiiight. Anyway Tyri is looking for something, she doesn't really know what and she does NOT have approval from Malygos for this little expedition. That at least is true to form for this particular character. In the Sunwell Trilogy she was FREQUENTLY arrogantly following her own agenda rather than doing as directed. 

So shortly after Tyri and Jorad are reunited they are separated again due to the working of a NEW character, the apparent villain of this series, a Second War Death Knight Yep, not only are the HEROES Knaak creation but so are the VILLAINS now. Who cares about Illidan anyway? Well, maybe not, the character MIGHT be based on one mentioned in World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal, at this point it is hard to say. Jorad falls into the hands of the Broken, who consider him an enemy because his people are allied with the Draenei. Tyri ends up with two Netherdrakes, Valokui who is friendly towards her and Zzerakui who is NOT. Wait, Zzerakui...isn't that the netherdrake that Sinestra had in "Night of the Dragon"?  Yep, that is him and this book gives a hint as to just how he may have fallen into Sinestra's clutches.

So the book ends with Jorad attempting to befriend the Broken while Tyri is off discovering that the Netherdrakes are actually black dragons that have been altered by Outland. The "Villain" of the book is busy making deadly pronouncements to his ethereal supplier and object lessons of the Fel'Orcs he has acquired. At this point he has made it quite clear that the only individual he is concerned with promoting is himself. This means that Illidan, Sinestra and the others are not going to be making an appearance any time soon.

I most likely should have waited like I did with the Sunwell Trilogy and gotten the series when it was done in a single volume. As it now stands that would be my recommendation as this entire book really focuses more on introducing the various characters than pushing forward a plot. If you are working on your lore library you ARE going to want to have this book if for no other reason than to keep a reference as you try to determine what direction the CURRENT lore is going.

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