After the financial crash of DDP, in 2010, IDW comics is given the right to issue D&D licensed materials. Their first publication is "number 0" comic that introduce both upcoming series, one ongoing based on D&D world and a DarkSun-based 5-issues limited one.
The ongoing serie will count a total of 16 issues (#0-15) and will be named :
Dungeons & Dragons - Fell's Five
There's lots to say about this serie.
First of all, it's obvious that IDW has a great experience in sale management. With this issue #0, they produced an introduction to a serie, kinda like a trailer, putting in place their pre-order business, but also they developped it as a product to create exclusive collectionable items. The fact is, like other comics publisher, they offered mutiple-covers issues. With this #0, to my knowledge, we're up to a total of 7 variants ! o_O
From left to right: Cover A, B, RI (Retailer Incentive), RE (Retailer Exclusive - Hastings),
Con Exclusive (GEN CON), Con Exclusive (PAX 2010), Con Exclusive (Convention 2010 Edition)
After this promotional move, if we could have expected only A & B covers for issue#1, at contrary, IDW will continue and improve their concept by adding to rarity variants, RPG materials issues... o_O
From left to right : Cover A, B, RE (Hastings), RE (Larry's Limited Edition), SP-1 (Module Edition)
The upcoming republication by IDW of late eighties DC's AD&D series, in which we could read a few pages here and there dedicated to RPG, may be an explanation to the origins of this concept. It's obvious that IDW was showing a real determination to provide its readers a new but also old-school experience.
When all variants of issue #1 contain the character sheet of the main hero, only the module edition is enriched with 6 pages of the role-playing adventure based on the story telled in the issue.
Only 3 issues of the serie have their module edition :
SP-1 Bad Day, SP-2 Hide in Plain Sight & SP-11 It goes Horribly Right
We could have expected more, in terms of module-issues but also in contents. These playing adventures include descriptions text with some basic area maps and monsters/characters stats... which is mainly raw materials dedicated to dungeon masters. But well, better that than nothing heh ! :)
In addition to these variants, a single issue containing the covers done by Wayne Reynolds will be edited.
The whole serie will be compiled in HC then in TPB (3 volumes each) and finally in a 49$ HC omnibus of 424 pages containing all the issues as well as extra such as found in module editions but also an art gallery? (I don't own this version so I suppose it could be the Wayne Reynolds arts or even every variant covers art)
The first TPB has been published in France, in august 2011, by Milady under the name : 1. Le Fleau des Ombres. It seems the rest will never be edited, sadly.
Considering the story and the art, I have just to say that it's been a delightful surprise. First of all, we're not into some (re)adaptation of a D&D best selling novel... and if DDP did some great stuff there, it was time to get some new stuff to read. IDW successed here, and that has to be said.
The main artist is Andrea Di Vito and his work is just of really good quality. His characters are well-drawn, having understandable and credible expressions. The movements as well as the choice of the shots and the pages construction are totally fitting the needs of the action.
For the story, we have writer John Rogers in charge. It's been ages since I've last laughed reading a D&D inspired comic... and his story as well as his characters just made it. We're following the adventures of a bunch of sympathic (but somehow powerful) losers... an amusing (almost) antiheroes band. I am pretty fond of Bree, the rogue... who's just the perfect definition of a lovely lil smart & sarcastic bastard. <3
Well, in conclusion, I'd say that, with this serie, IDW did manage to successfully renew the D&D comics line. When DDP was more into "serious" fantasy, the most often illustrating stories from the official D&D novels (which are for the most written in classic fantasy style), IDW regenerated the funny D&D universe. (once more the parallel with the DC series is really tempting). If I could dare some weird references comparisons, DDP succeded in Tolkien-inspired D&D adaptation when IDW did it on Willow-inspired one. And for the oldschool D&D players that loved to spend nights around a table with friends, for whom the success of an adventure was far more into the fun they got than the XP on their character sheet, this is totally in the spirit.