Showing posts with label Nelson Daniel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nelson Daniel. Show all posts


D&D comics history part 35 - Shadows of the Vampire (IDW)

   IDW pursues the adventures of Minsc and his mates started in Legends of Baldur's Gate and publishes in 2016 a 5 issues mini-series, part of WotC's Curse of Strahd event, entitled :

Shadows of the Vampire

2016 TPB cover

   As in the previous series Jim Zub is in charge of the writing. The art will be fully done (coloring included) by Nelson Daniel. Neil Uyetake will remain in charge of the lettering and collection design.

   The story starts with our bunch of heroes (Minsc, Boo, Delina, Krydle and Shandie) looking for some mercenary job after their victory on the evil Dragon Cult. The party, still being considered as outlaws by the city guards and therefore keeping a low profile, pays a visit to the Temple of Kelemvor (god of the dead and the dying) which is having some trouble for the last few nights. There, they meet Father Alby, the priest in charge, who asks them to investigate. They'll be joined by Nerys, a female cleric, servant of Kelemvor who's not that glad to have to assist these bunch of faithless mercenaries. During their first camping night surveying the Temple, intruders (skeletons lead by Sangin and his two werevolves accolytes Dron & Utna) will pop in to steal some magic artifact. Then, trying to save Nerys (who's been kidnapped during the assault) and to retrieve the stolen magic items, the full crew -as well as the villains- will all be teleported via some magical myst in the well known Demiplane of Dread : Ravenloft. They end up in Barovia (description and map below), the domain ruled by the uber-famous and redoubted vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich...

Map of Barovia (including Shadows of the Vampire's plot locations)

Barovia as described in Ravenloft campaign setting : Realm of Terror (p.63-65 - TSR, 1990)

   As expected at the end of Legends of Baldur's Gate, the party is added a cleric. Nerys Kathon is a creation of Jim Zub and Max Dunbar. As for Minsc, Boo and Delina, Nerys will be too added as a playable character in Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms in late 2018. (cf Jim Zub's tweet)

Nerys' first appearance (left) & her chara-sheet in Idle Champions (right)

    Regarding the storyline of this mini-series, it's obvious Jim Zub and Nelson Daniel used the Curse of Strahd module (WotC, march 2016), issued during the eponymous event, as their main source of inspiration, and that for both plot's intrigues and illustration designs. Curse of Strahd's adventure is kinda an enhanced and enriched remake of TSR 1983's D&D adventure : Ravenloft (I6) where Barovia was first ever mentioned.

Curse of Strahd - cover art by Ben Oliver (WotC, 2016) & I6 Ravenloft (TSR, 1983)

   Just after their arrival in Ravenloft, our heroes visit a Vistani (local Gypsies) camp where they'll meet a fortune-teller known as Madam Eva (stats below). If not mentioned in the comic, this place is known as the Tser Pool Encampment. And there is no doubt artist N.Daniel respected the map provided in the module to draw it as it's fitting almost perfectly :

Tser Pool Encampment - Art N.Daniel + Curse of Strahd's module map (p.36)

    Madam Eva is there the first named NPC the party encounters. She's a major character in the domain of Barovia as, apart from being a powerful medium and fortune-teller, she appears to be Strahd's half-sister.

Madam Eva as drawn by N.Daniel, with her infos & stats from CoS module (p.233-234)

   Madam Eva will use a Tarokka deck to tell Minsc his future. In 2016, GaleForce Nine issued a Tarokka deck to use with Curse of Strahd (or remotely as some kind of poker via the Prophet's Gambit's rules) and we can see here that Nelson Daniel used the exact same design of the cards (original art by Chuck Lukacs, who worked on many D&D modules as illustrator as well as on Magic : The Gathering cardgame) in the comic :

 Tarokka Deck Box (GF9, 2016) and its cards as used in Shadows of the Vampire

    Leaving the encampment, our adventurers will save another named NPC mentioned in the module, a certain Adrian Martikov who's being attacked by a horde of ghouls. This one will then propose the party to help him guard his wagon full of wine barrels until he reaches his destination, the Wizard of Wines Winery (owned by Davian Martikov, Adrian's suspicious father), where our heroes would be allowed to stay as a reward for their efforts. This subquest is directly inspired by the Special Events proposed in page 180 of Curse of Strahd :

"Wine Delivery" quest

Wizard of Wines Winery - Art by N.Daniel & CoS module map (p.175)

   In the meantime, the villain Sangin is taken back at Ravenloft Castle where Strahd summons the Three Bride to "discipline" him... and there the comparison between the module's illustration of these characters and Daniel's art suffers no doubt at all :

The Three Bride, N.Nelson & Curse of Strahd (p.93) versions
From left to right : Anastrasya Karelova, Ludmilla Vilisevic & Volenta Popofsky

   After that, Sangin will pay a visit to his former comrades at their home, the Werewolf Den. There we'll witness the confrontation of Dron & Utna with their pack leader, Kiril Stoyanovich after the fail of their escaping attempt. As there is an exception to every rule, Kiril is drawn by Daniel as bearded and bald-headed while he has black thick hair in the module's illustration.

Werewolf Den - description and map (Curse of Strahd module, p.201-202)

   Meanwhile our heroes will finally manage to arrive in the town of Vallaki. (Tho, when looking at the map of Barovia, it's very unlikely that they could have reached The Wizard of Wines without passing by Vallaki prior to that, especially considering they departed from the Tser Pool accompanying a carriage that had no means but to follow the road... just sayin' heh... :P)

Town of Vallaki - description and map (Curse of Strahd module, p95, 97)

   There, they will arrive in a middle of a Carnivale which theme of the week is "Parade of Purple" and will encounter the Burgomaster, Baron Vargas Vallakovich. Once again this NPC is directly inspired from the module in his traits :

Baron Vargas - N.Daniel & CoS module illustration (p.105) versions

   And soon, the great villain and ruler of Barovia Strahd von Zarovich will make some badass stylish entrance to finally confront our heroes...

Once a badass, always a badass...

Strahd's description & stats as in CoS module. (p.239-240)

   Strahd's background is vaguely and briefly evocated a fisrt time by Sangin wondering if Tatyana (Federovna) could have been the previous owner of the magic necklace. Tatyana was the betrothed of Strahd's younger brother Sergei von Zarovich (who briefly appears as a ghost at the end of the comic - second evocation of Strahd's past). After Strahd murdered Sergei by jealousy (and in order to gain eternal youth via a ritual of the black arts) on what was to be their wedding day, Tatyana, refusing to succumb to the murderer, threw herself off Castle Ravenloft into the chasm below. These events, which are at the origins of his curse, are told in the 1993 novel I, Strahd : The Memoirs of a Vampire by P.N.Elrod.

I, Strahd - The Memoirs of a Vampire (French cover - Fleuve Noir, 1997)

   Using the most recent Ravenloft materials as bedrock of their work, Jim Zub and Nelson Daniel offer here a great, coherent and, as we saw, very documented story. The more time our adventurers spend in the Demiplane of Dread, the more desperate they become. Ravenloft is a dark gothic setting where hope, faith and good feelings don't belong. Far from the comedy tone of the first series, we're experiencing here the pangs of the tragedy. It's only the second time a comic is set in Ravenloft in the whole D&D comics history (the other one being the short-story The Rigor of the Game from the Worlds of Dungeons & Dragons collection by DDP). And once again it worked like a charm. N.Daniel successfully followed up the work of Max Dunbar, respecting what his predecessor implemented and did great bringing the visual despair this narrative needed.

   Note that, for some reason, the first issue of Shadows of the Vampire as well as the TPB version contain the Tyranny of Dragons short story that was previously released online on WOTC website.