Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Warcraft Legends Vol. 1 Review

I have stated in the past that I don't care for Manga. That I prefer my stories to be crafted of words rather than black and white drawings. Yet each time I read one I am hopeful that it will stick out and show me that this genre is worthy of its avid following. I waited on the Warcraft Legends series because of all the Warcraft Manga out there this seems the BEST option to lay those hopes on.  Over all I was not disappointed.

Unlike the other Manga Blizzard has commissioned, the idea behind these is to craft a collection of short stories from a variety of writers and artists. Each volume will contain four individual offerings. Some will be linked volume to volume, while others stand alone. In this, the first installment of the series, they are brought together Richard Knaak and Jae-Hawn Kim of Sunwell Trilogy fame as well as Troy Lewter, Mike Wellman and Mi-Young No. The third is from Dan Jolley and Carlos Olivares with the final bringing back Troy Lewter now working with Nam Kim. Another feature of this series is that Blizzard has stated within each will be contained not just simple stories but additional lore which fleshes out things we encounter in the game.

Since the art work is done by several different artists, its quality varies from story to story so I am not going to take the time to discuss it overly much. Each artist is dealing with their OWN unique story so the drastic changes in art styles from heavily inked and muddy to rounded and cartoony are not quite as jarring as they could be. Of the four I enjoyed Nam Kim's crisp style the most.

The first chapter is called "Fallen" and deals with another of the supporting characters from the Sunwell Trilogy, Trag Highmountain. For those unfamiliar with his story, Trag is the Tauren who assisted in freeing Anveena (aka the Sunwell) from the twisted clutches of his former friend Baron Mordis. This act resulted in Trag's death, but it was not to last as he soon found himself raised as a Forsaken. At present players can occasionally see him wandering around the Argent Tournament with a Taunka companion.

The second chapter called "The Journey" focuses on a simple farmer and how he ends up part of an expedition to clear Andorhal of the Scourge. It is a completely self contained story with the result of that expedition and his return home all included.

The third is titled "How to Win Friends" and is the only light hearted story contained in this volume. The focus is on a Gnome by the name of Lazlo Grindwidget who is attempting to relocate from Goldshire to Kharanos with mixed success.

The final story called "An Honest Trade" deals with a member of the Thorium Brotherhood. After years of selling his wares to who ever can provide the coin, no questions asked, he is directly confronted with the result. What follows is a search for redemption.

Caution spoilers incoming.  If you want to wait until you read the book, skips the rest.

"Fallen" begins with Trag, making his way back to his clan and begging the Shaman to cure him of the curse of undeath. At first the Shaman attempts to convince Trag to accept his fate, but when Trag shares that he is having to constantly fight the whispers of the Lich King, the Shaman agrees to help. Unfortunately the "assistance" that the Shaman and the rest of his clan provide is betrayal. When Trag realizes this he fights for and regains his freedom. But when faced with the option of taking his revenge, he chooses instead to flee. This story is not completed, but rather leads into the upcoming Volume 2 of this series.

"The Journey" tells the story Halsand. When it begins two of his children are playing a clapping a game while singing a song their mother taught them.
Be wary, child, of Plaguelands Plain
Be mindful, child of the infected grain
For if throat is parched and infected water sip
Forever your soul will be in cursed scourge grip.
So heed this warning, child and if far from mother stray
Let light from home's hearth guide you back your way.
The games are interupted with the arrival of a group of adventurers on their way to Andorhal. When Halsand confesses that he grew up there one of the party prevails on him to accompany them as a guide. While at first reluctant Halsand agrees, pledging to assist in anyway he can hoping to provide a better life for his family. The expedition is a failure but Halsand eventually makes his way back home as promised, forever changed by what he has experienced. I really enjoyed this particular story as it is one that makes you consider what all the people of Lordaeron suffered with the plague. It reminded me a great deal of the Pamela quest line.

"How to Win Friends" is as I stated the one humorous story in this volume. It begins inside the Tavren with the locals singing a tale of a heroic dwarf and how he sucker punched a Dragon. Lazlo in an attempt to make friends with his new neighbors invents numerous ill fated schemes, much to the humor of competitors Togglebolt and Sprysprocket. But when a Frost Troll attacks the town looking for his lost Mojo, Lazlo is provided an opportunity to redeem himself. Of course things don't go QUITE as planned (we are talking about Gnomish engineering here after all.) However since the end result is the removal of the troll, no one really cares. I really enjoyed the "bar songs" in this story. Like the song from "The Journey" it feels authentic, something you would expect a group of half drunk dwarves to be belting out while bragging of their exploits.

The final story is the one that one that hit me the most. "An Honest Trade" begins by giving you a quick over view of the Thorium Brotherhood, then focusing on one particular Master craftsman, Nori Blackfinger. Nori realizes that his current location is limiting his clientele so he packs his bags and heads off to Booty Bay seeking fame and fortune. He finds it, but his only son Eli begins to question his business edicate. Unfortunately Nori ignores his son to the point that he is completely unaware of Eli's desire to travel and have adventures of his own. Things come to a head when Nori sells a weapon to a bandit known for his savagery against innocents. Eli leaves, setting out to seek his fortune, refusing to be a part of Nori's trade any longer. Enraged Nori strips him of all his finely crafted weapons and replaces them with junk. Shortly there after the tragic results of his actions are revealed when his son's body is delivered to his doorstep, along with the story of how he fell to the very blade his father had crafted. Devastated Nori sets out on a journey of redemption, attempting to collect every weapon he has EVER crafted and destroy them.

For once a Manga series has lived up to the hype for me. Even more it is one that contained Richard Knaak...yes I do believe hell has frozen over. After reading this particular installment I am anxious to continue on in the series. Stay tuned, it won't be long in coming.

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