Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics #9-14, by Jeff Grugg, Rags Morales, and Dave Simons
Although it is rare for me to read graphic novels, from time to time I enjoy them, and this book was a pleasant reminder of why such things are enjoyable even for someone who appreciates text as much as I do. Existing halfway between standard books and cartoons, a book like this seeks to convey a sense of adventure both through text (especially capturing dialogue) as well as visuals to convey action, this particular book (and others like it) serve as a way of indulging in the interest of the reader to vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure through the quests of a set of generally appealing and diverse set of characters. In reading this particular story I found myself somewhat in media res, since it does not include the first eight stories of the series (which were presumably included in a previous volume that my library just happens not to have in its bookstacks). At any rate, I saw this book as enjoyable and as somewhat complex in its dealings, reminding the reader that in a world like that of the Forgotten Realms that there are many different layers to the sense of adventure that can be appreciated.
At their basis, though, the seven stories of this particular volume are not particularly complicated. The first story, “The Morning After,” tells the story of the party’s successful escape on their ship from a dangerous attack after suffering the effects of a hangover. This theme of the downside of chemical dependency is explored in the next story, “Head Cheese,” which looks at a halfling that had a relapse to an addiction to cheese, with dangerous consequences. The next three stories are a three-part story called Triangles, which looks at a somewhat forced love triangle between the brave but not very wise paladin Priam Agrivar and two ladies. In the first story the party seeks to recover an artifact that leads them in contact with a mysterious Jasmine, a thief who reminds Agrivar of someone else, namely her mother. The finding of the artifact was a trap, though, and this has consequences, as while Jasmine and Ishi engage in a duel of hearts for Agrivar’s love, a powerful group of mages is coming to arrest the wizard Dwalimor Omen for serious crimes that he has a hard time defending himself from because he was acting on orders from a previous ruler of a wizarding society who has gone mad and was replaced by Omen’s vengeful ex-girlfriend. After this there are stories about a lich in love as well as “Jammers,” a tale about an interplanetary group of adventurers.
So, what are the complexities one sees here. The Forgotten Realms are a universe full of many inhabited planets with many and diverse sentient beings. The party itself contains a well-balanced group of characters that includes a paladin, a monk, a rogue, and a wizard among them, and they are engaged in various efforts to recover loot that lead them into frequent trouble. Meanwhile, there are beings in other planets that occasionally interact with adventurers who go from place to place looking for their own adventures. And beyond the physical universe there are other planes of existence that can create problems. Characters deal with the tension between intellect and wisdom, the problems of knowing what is in their own hearts, and the loyalty to friends and one’s party that can turn a diverse group of people with their own dark personal stories into something closely resembling a loving family. One can see all of this a recognition of the immense spread of the universe but of the longing to be a part of a loving community within that larger universe.