Showing posts with label Francesco Mortarino. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Francesco Mortarino. Show all posts

2019/03/12

D&D comics history part 37 - Evil at Baldur's Gate (IDW)

   In 2018, IDW continues releasing the adventures of Minsc and his crew in this 4th series dedicated to them once back in Baldur's Gate after their wanderings in the North (cf Frost Giant's Fury) :

Evil at Baldur's Gate

TPB cover (IDW, 2018)

   This will be a 5 issues series, all written by author Jim Zub. But, contrary to the previous ones, this time each issue contains a short story focusing on one (or two) character(s) with different team of artists working on each.


Part One : Minsc the Mighty

Issue #1, cover B

   Art by Dean Kotz, colors by Stefani Rennee and lettering done by Neil Uyetake.

   In this first part our bunch of adventurers are finally back in Baldur's Gate, tho still considered as outlaws. After their safe arrival in Krydle & Shandie's hideout, everyone is going about his/her own business. We're then following Minsc in his desire of acquiring back the fame he once had as the Beloved Ranger, former hero of the city. To do so he's heading to some tavern to get hints on any evil to fight. After having considered The Happy Joust "too jovial", The Drunken Lout "too inebriated" he finally enters The Gibbering Gizzard (these places being seemingly special creations for this comic). There he gets to know some local self-proclaimed hero of the people : Krigar the Courageous. This one having no desire to partner with anyone, Minsc will spy on him while he's confronting the Blades of Burgust, a band of thieves and assassins... 

Who's cast Control Weather ?? :P

   This part's art is pretty nice and if we're not in a thrilling scenario, this lays the foundation of the next issues and a possible upcoming story arc as Minsc is making here a new powerful enemy...

 Part Two : Krydle and Shandie

Issue #2, cover B

   Art by Steven Cummings, inks by John Wycough, colors by Jordy Escuin and letters by Neil Uyetake.

   This time we're following -as expected in the title- Krydle and Shandie, who, wandering in some undercellar, will encounter a certain Heltur they know... This one is accusing them to have participated, under the command of Burgust (cf part 1), in the kidnapping of an information broker known as The Fetcher. Claiming that he is in some deadly conflict relation with his former boss, Krydle decides to help free the informant and deal with Burgust once for all... 
   We learn here some aspect of Krydle's past : He was teaming up with Burgust and two other fellows (Dorjo the Jabber & Lili Swift) living of robbery -in some Robin Hood ethic- when Burgust wanted more and decided to create his own Thieves Guild. In his quest of power he ended totally paranoid and made imprison Lili, murdered Dorjo as well as Krydle's mother as this last one managed to run away...
   When freeing The Fetcher, our heroes learn the Blades of Burgust are planning to attack a secret meeting of the Parliament of Peers whose Coran and Ulder (cf Legends of Baldur's Gate) are part of...

Evil at Baldur's Gate #2 - Art by S. Cummings

   Note that at the end of this short story we have the discreet appearance of a certain Magister Mearls. It seems more than obvious it's a wink to Mike Mearls, senior manager of the D&D research and design team. He's credited in Murder in Baldur's Gate campaign guide as D&D Group Manager and we know that Jim Zub did use materials from this module before. (cf Legends of Baldur's Gate).
 2019 Gary Con XI - Epic Play with Mike Mearls as DM (left) - Magister Mearls & Ulder in Evil of Baldur's Gate (right)

   If Jim Zub gives us here a very nice and interesting background of one of his characters, I am personally a bit troubled on Cummings' art, especially on the characters' faces as they're not very recognizable in regards of the previous issues. On the other hand, we have some great smoke and light effects here and there which make the whole a still pretty nice-to-read issue.

Part Three : Delina in "Wild Ways"

Issue #3, cover B

   Art by Harvey Tolibao, colors by Juan Manuel Rodriquez and letters by Neil Uyetake.

   This issue is focusing on Delina who pays a visit to her friend, the Wizard-Librarian Matrikay at the Knowledge-Hold in order to fix her wild-magic controlling issue... to do so, the wizard teleports Delina in "a place of absolute order" where she might find answers, giving her a Recall-Stone for its safe return. Delina will end up in the Mechanus world -home of the Modrons- at Regulus (Cog 42 Region 16...) where she'll encounter who must be Primus (unnamed in the comic) and will have to face a trial before the Fraternity of Order...

Modron's quanticum logics... XD

  
Delina & Primus (left) - Delina & The Fraternity of Order (right)
 
   For a more indeep overview of Mechanus and the Modrons, both Dungeon Magazine #186 (Jan. 2011) and Dragon Magazine #414 (Aug. 2012) include very interesting articles :

Mechanus & Regulus - excerpt from Ecology of the Modron by Brian R. James (Dragon Magazine #414, 08/2012)

   This is a very nice issue Jim Zub & Harvey Tolibao offered us here, as much in the telling as in the art. We somehow find here the same oddness and inexorability that can only be found in Planescape's worlds in some sort of echo of the 1996 comic The Unity of the Ring.

Part Four : Beyond Death
 
Issue #4, cover B

   Art by Ramon Bachs, colors by Jordy Escuin and letters by Shawn Lee.

   Centered on Nerys Kathon, this issue tells how she will, with the help of the crew, deal with her lycanthropy issue she's facing since she was bitten by a werewolf in Shadows of the Vampire. Now aware of the curse, after her shapeshifting during a tavern brawl, our heroes will seek a cure at the Temple of Kelemvor where they'll inform Father Alby of the situation...

Ooops...

   We will note that Shandie makes some use of a dagger coated with Oil of Taggit, a powerful poison that makes its victims unconscious...

Oil of Taggit - Dungeon's Master Guide (p.258 - WotC, 2014)

   Nice issue where we assist on a somehow surprising and fluent conclusion of Nerys' narrative arc... it is still possible -if another series about these folks is ever published- that some unexpected plot twist may occur afterwards... but this is a story that remains to be told...Ramon Bachs' art is very pleasant and once again we're given a more-than-decent piece of work here.

Part Five : Hamster Quest

Issue #5, cover B

   Art by Francesco Mortarino, colors by Jordy Escuin and letters by Neil Uyetake.

   To conclude this mini-series, we are granted with a solo adventure of the cutest familiar ever : The Miniatiure Giant Space Hamster Boo ! While our heroes are deeply sleeping in their hideout, Boo wakes up and goes or a ramble on the cities' roofs. There it catches a bunch of adventurers having a conversation on the possible location of the hideout... This team of peanut brains is composed of Crimbo (male half-elf Wizard), Baden (male human Thief), Marrrue (female half-orc Warrior) and Shawneer (female human Sorcerer). Facing this unfortuitous threat against its companions, Boo will take care of the danger in its own way...

Far from A and not even B or C... here comes the Z-Team : :P

   Boo first appears as an "inventory item" in the video-game Baldur's Gate (Bioware, 1998) :

Boo "item" description - Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition (Beamdog, 2012)

   He's described as a Miniature Giant Space Hamster, which is not Minsc's invention as it is an existing variant of the species as described in the Spelljammer's Bestiary :

Giant Space Hamster - AD&D 2nd edition's Spelljammer Monstruous Compendium (TSR, 1990)

   On a trivia aspect, we can note that Neil Uyetake used a lorem ipsum to fill a dialogue bubble... which is not strange in itself as the text font is so tiny, the bubble being not meant to be read... but the troubling thing is that, apart the beginning, it doesn't correspond to the classic version...
   And here is the thing : Do we have here a randomized text created by some tool/program or... as could be the tradition... could there be some funny hidden meaning inside... The hard part here is to get a clean and fully readable version of this miniaturized text... and then to be able to translate that from latin... I'll let the brave and the reckless deal with that riddle... waiting for your comments ! :P

LOREM IPSUM DOLOR SIT AMET, ILLUD VERITUS PRO E, EX... 

   This last issue of Evil at Baldur's Gate is without any doubt the funiest of the whole series. Franscesco Mortarino's art fits totally the spirit of the narrative, his style -especially on the characters faces- reminding me of Monkey Punch's works (Lupin III).


   In the continuity of WotC cross-media marketing (cf Legends of Baldur's Gate) and as advertised on the single issues' covers, each one contains a code that can be used in the steam version of Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms to get some bonus chests. To my knowledge, these are no longer valid at the time I am writing these lines (FYI, no code in the TPB version of the series). Here they are for a record :

MINS-CBAL-DURS-GATE
KRYD-LEAN-DSHA-NDIE
DELI-NATH-EWIL-DWAY
NERY-SKAT-HONC-URSE
ABOO-HAMS-TERQ-UEST

    It is a very nice and entertaining series Jim Zub and his bunch of artists offered us here. We have our heroes recovering from their past adventures, finding answers and getting back on their feet. The optimistic (and often funny) tone of these short-stories acts like a balm on the reader's spirit in an echo of the narrative... Now the question is to know if we're on some happy ending here or can we hope to see our heroes back on the road soon ? Time will tell I suppose...

o_O