Welcome to the Adventure Zone!
SEE! The illustrated exploits of three lovable dummies set loose in a classic fantasy adventure!
READ! Their journey from small-time bodyguards to world-class artifact hunters!
MARVEL! At the sheer metafictional chutzpah of a graphic novel based on a story created in a podcast where three dudes and their dad play a tabletop role playing game in real time!
Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided (« guided ») by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it’s based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.
With endearingly off-kilter storytelling from master goofballs Clint McElroy and the McElroy brothers, and vivid, adorable art by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins is the comics equivalent of role-playing in your friend’s basement at 2am, eating Cheetos and laughing your ass off as she rolls critical failure after critical failure.
There is nothing easy about adapting a story from one medium to another. It’s even harder when the two mediums we’re talking about are so fundamentally different as a DnD actual play podcast and a comic book.
TAZ, if for some reason you’ve managed to never hear of it, is a very popular Dungeons and Dragons podcast hosted by the McElroy family, of My Brother, My Brother, And Me fame. The short of it is that it’s a podcast in which three brothers and their dad plays DnD. But don’t be fooled by this description: TAZ is more than just DnD. It is an experience.
I’d say that this comic book managed to do a pretty decent adaptation, with the constraints that it was given (adapt an audio story to a visual one, have the DM be in it because we’d all miss Griffin if he wasn’t). It’s not the best comic book I’ve ever read, but then, maybe I’m doing it a disservice. After all, this is just the first arc of TAZ, which was fun, decent, but ultimately just another DnD story. In comparison, the last few arcs of TAZ are so mind-blowingly excellent that they made me cry, and still figure as one of my all time favourite fantasy story experiences.
Here There Be Gerblins can’t compare to Story And Song (the last arc of the podcast) but then again, it doesn’t have to. It’s a perfectly good starting point to entice readers who might not be familiar with the podcast, and it gives plenty of references to future events for readers who might be reading the entire thing thinking « I can’t wait for the rest! » like I did.
I liked the decision to include the DM in the comic book. TAZ is, after all, a DnD game, and while other such comics like Order of the Stick can get away with an entirely in-game storyline, Griffin is very much a character in his own right in this story. His commentary and interactions with his players are fun and light-hearted, and I think we would likely have lost a layer of humour if he hadn’t been included in the final product.
The artwork was also very pleasing, with artist Carey Pietsch giving life to our characters in a very charming and dymanic way, and drawing the cutest dang version of Avi I’ve yet seen. As expected with the McElroys, you can tell that inclusion and diversity was definitely a goal in the character’s designs, and they didn’t miss their mark.
I look forward to reading more of the adventure of these good, good, goofy boys.