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Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy

I’m a big fan of video games and have been since Atari had those hideously long black controllers that looked like remote controls. I’d always been a console fan, rather than a computer gamer for two reasons: I like having a controller in my hand, and I couldn’t afford a computer that could run a massive-multiplayer-online roleplaying game or first person shooter of say Half-Life quality.

So when I finally got a computer with chops, thank you college graduation, I started playing my first MMORPG, Worlds of Warcraft. I’m slowly climbing my way up to higher levels, but mostly, the only thing I want is the damn horse your character gets at level 40, because running across continents bigger than Asia on a video game is more annoying than Jaleel White on crank.

I’m impressed with the story aspect of the game, something I didn’t expect to find, especially since it ties into the previous Warcraft games: the infamous Warcraft III and Warcraft: Frozen Throne. The plotting of the game itself is rather in-depth.

Why am I talking about this? Because now the people at TokyoPop have tried to throw together a comic book series that ties into the plot from the games, Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy. To do this, they’ve brought in fantasy series writer Richard Knaak to pen the script and Jae-Hwan Kim, Korean artist of King of Hell. Both are talented artists, but the work they do here is pretty much par for the course fantasy, lacking in back story and falling into easy and predictable rhythms.

The story follows a young Blue Dragon, Kalec, as he begins his search for a “mysterious power,” taking human form after he is wounded by an angry dwarf and his trusty rifle. He is tended to by a young and buxom peasant girl named Anveena, because no matter what, if you are injured in the deep forest, there is a maiden with medicinal training within twenty yards. Now Kalec is in hiding from the dwarf and his band of trolls and orcs (which is odd because I am almost sure that dwarves, under Warcraft continuity, really hate orcs) but an even worse turn of events has him facing down with the Undead Scourge as they surround the house and kill Anveena’s family.

Sorry if I spoiled that for you, but anyone who reads fantasy knows that the peasant girl’s family will die, if for no other reason than they’re just farmers and farmers don’t last long in a world full of dragons and magic and zombies. When in doubt, the writers kill the agriculturalists first.

As they go along, they begin picking up player charact-- I mean allies, discovering that each one has a unique connection to the search for the energies of the Sunwell, the loss of which allowed Quel’thalas and the High Elves of Azeroth to lose to the Undead Scourge.

Knaak’s story is very pat and obvious and asks the reader to ignore the holes in the plot. Why does no one question a dwarf hanging with orcs? Why is Anveena a human, yet says she’s from the High Elf lands? Where did all these dragons come from, when Warcraft continuity doesn’t say much about them? Knaak sometimes lightly touches on these questions, but nothing close to actual plot development. His characters are one-dimensional and flat, and not to mention boring as hell. There’s the charismatic hero, there’s the tortured hero, there’s the obligatory dwarf, the female spell caster....I could go on.

The dialogue is bad because it is entirely indistinct from one character to another, his scripts giving no hint of individuality to any of his creations. There is almost no emotional content, which one would think to find when a girl’s parents are burned alive, yet not here. This emotionlessness isn’t helped by Kim’s inability to draw facial expression other than using an eyebrow or open mouth.

Kim’s art is good in general, save for his lack of character emotion portrayal. His character designs are invariably detailed and interesting and very good when most fantasy comics are not of such high quality. He uses a great deal of shading to add texture to manga-like artwork that usually isn’t there. His style is more reminiscent of Record Loddoss War than anything else. His work is just not helped by Knaak’s script.

It might not be Knaak’s fault entirely that this project has ended up so badly; the beginning of the comic is about nine pages of exposition that explains the world of Warcraft to the reader, some of which is derived directly from the games, and some that is obviously added so that the comic has some type of hold in Warcraft myth.

Without these pages, the reader would have even less of a clue as to the how and why of the comic, but honestly, no one wants to read nine pages of exposition before the comic even starts. A good writer should be able to weave the history into the plot, not just have his characters respond to it, and a good writer should be able to play off existing material to craft a story, rather than write up new material and try to shoehorn it into the continuity.

This is a case of a writer and artist having great source material and lousy execution. It really isn’t worth your $9.99 to own this manga-esque little book, even if you happen to have a level thrity-two warlock on the Bonechewer server that needs to go to Thousand Needles to finally get the spell to summon his felhunter.....I mean, you know, you could spend that money on a monthly prescription. Or something.

Robert Sparling

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