World of Warcraft: Mage or Punk-ass Teen With Daddy Issues Saves Dalaran
by Richard Knaak, art by Ryo Kawakami
The Nexus War is a part of Warcraft lore that is never really fleshed out in-game. This is, of course, the war between the Blue Dragonflight and the reckless magic users of the world, at the forefront of their shit list being the Kirin Tor. This Tokyopop manga follows the young mage... Hold on, let me check the back, Aodhan as he realizes his role in this war.
First, I'll start with the props. Props to this book for making Rhonin look like a responsible human being for once without Krasus holding his hand.
Now, I will bash it.
The story itself is choppy and unengaging. For the first few pages, we are brought right into the action of keeping a protective bubble raised around Dalaran as it floats in the middle of a swarm of attacking blue dragons. Next, we are taken to the lower levels of the city where our young protagonist... What's his face. Aodhan, that's the one, is training. This apparently incredible youth can't do his tests right because he can't focus worth a damn. About five or six pages later, the youth's teacher is given the mysterious order to send... Aodhan (that name is seriously impossible for me to remember) up to the Violet Hold to meet up with someone mysterious. While Aodhan dumbly stares at the Violet Citadel, we are yanked over to Rhonin and Archmage Modera yammering back and forth about how tough this city is to defend. Rhonin, being at the front lines, and Modera, working with others to keep the shield intact. Then back to Aodhan. Then back to Rhonin. Then some creepy guy we meet later. Then to Aodhan. Then to Rhonin. The story continues in this way for the whole story, switching back and forth from Aodhan's current status, Rhonin and Modera yammering about the shield and how difficult it is to keep up, Aodhan's flashbacks, and the blue dragonflight commander, Cyanigosa, saying cryptic things that are totally foreshadowing, guys, you just wait, this'll be awesome.
Ultimately, the story is unfulfilling. But that says nothing about the art. The art embodies the way comic books work. Many people work on a comic, only one or two artists get their names on the front of it. The other artists all mimic the recognized artist's style to finish the comic in a timely manner. This usually works... Unless it is so glaringly obvious when someone underqualified drew a panel. Especially a big one. Say, a full page. Or the very last panel of the story.
World of Warcraft: Death Knight or Thank God I Bought This Along With "Mage"
by Dan Jolley, art by Rocio Zucchi
Thassarian's backstory is fleshed out in this Tokyopop manga, including his life before undeath and his path to undeath itself. His services to Arthas are told, as well as his friendship with Koltira.
After reading the depressing, disjointed, unfulfilling stack of papers that is World of Warcraft: Mage, this manga may have seemed far too much better in comparison. After working through my initial shellshock, however, I realized that this is, in fact, not only way better than Mage, but is also one of the best I've read so far. The art style is incredible, with no slacking or rushing deadlines evident. Rocio Zucchi was the right guy for everyone to be following the lead of. The style is consistent to a T. Never am I wondering where they left the budget. Even more, the poses used by the characters and the enemies are at their usual over-the-top wonderfulness that befits a comic book while still staying within reasonable expectations of form and movement. In other words, it is a comic book, and it is not a realistic style of drawing people, but damn, I don't have to suspend my disbelief much. Kudos to Zucchi and the other artists!
The story was fluid and dynamic, changing viewpoints and points in time when appropriate and enjoyable. The story was easy to understand without being explained to us thoroughly over again. After all, this is a story about a death knight; the story should lend itself to the harsh existence and heartbreak that makes a death knight what he or she is. The removal from society, the normalcy that surrounds death for the undead, the feelings of regret and abandonment felt by both the knight and his remaining kin, all of these are portrayed perfectly in World of Warcraft: Death Knight. Go buy it and read it if you haven't already.
War of the Ancients or Krasus and Rhonin's Excellent Adventure
by Richard Knaak
This story sort of retrofitted the Warcraft franchise with some backup lore. Before Warcraft III, there had been no mention of Night Elves, and the Dragons' identities had been sketchy at best. For some reason prior to this, there was only one continent.
And before this, we didn't have to put up with Krasus for more than just Day Of The Dragon.
Krasus, I think, was kind of a mistake in lore. Krasus is amazingly powerful, actually goes out and does things that his dragon brethren usually don't do, and likes to watch out for mortals in more of a sense than "We're keeping this world in good shape and you'd best not fuck it all up." However, having someone this powerful and influential doesn't lend itself very well to the game world. Why does Krasus expect the players to make a raid and face down Malygos? Wouldn't Krasus be there if it was such a dire situation? Or is he just waiting in the shadows of the Eye of Eternity, waiting to give Alextrasza her cue to very unhelpfully come in and give us our loot? The saddest part of that instance: we didn't get to skin Malygos for thirty million Icy Dragonscales.
Ah, but the book series wasn't all about Krasus. It was about Malfurion, Tyrande, and Illidan! And Rhonin! Why is Rhonin here?...
...I liked Ravencrest the best, though. Sigh. He had better show up in the War of the Ancients instance in Caverns of Time.
Don't be fooled by the elves on the cover; this book is about an irritatingly cynical ginger and his mystical dragon friend.
Stormrage or Yes, I'm Willing To Pay $25 Just To See What The Hell Malfurion's Been Up To
by Richard Knaak
I waited anxiously for Stormrage to come out, I really did. I bothered my father constantly. "Look up this book on Amazon," I'd tell him. "What's it called?" he'd ask. I would smile happily at the prospect of reading it. "Stormrage," I would say. "The book's title is Stormrage."
Oh shit, Richard Knaak wrote it. But I can overlook this, right? I can overlook his offense to me that was published in the form of Night Of The Dragon, right? Well...
First off, Broll is emo as shit. Emo. He's a failure. Look, I'm Broll Bearmantle. I have antlers, but I don't deserve them because I feel responsible for a pit lord killing my daughter in a battle where hundreds of other people died that I could give less than two shits about. My eyes aren't amber like that asshole Fandral's, but I still have the same complex of never letting go of a death that has been haunting and thereby hindering me for most of my life. I'm a failure.
Broll, shut the hell up. Christ, even Tyrande isn't as useless as you. And I don't even like her! What happened, Broll? Were you always this way? Is it because someone else is writing you? Not the same person as Whatever The Title of the Comic Varian Is In Is? You were great in that. I liked it. You faced down your demons, man! Why do they spring up again?
But I digress from the Broll hate for now. The main issue I had, before I get to what I liked about the book, is the fact that Malfurion was amazing. No, not in the sense that he's awesome and powerful and cool, as he should be. But in the sense that... Well, he's amazing once. And that concludes. And then he's amazing again! Then that concludes. Another subplot! Malfurion saves the day! That concludes. It just seems to go on and on after Malfurion is rescued from the Nightmare Lord.
What delighted me, though, was the return to lore of one Fandral Staghelm. If you've read my fanfic involving him, you'll think to yourself "Man, this chick must think about this character a lot to be willing to write his thought processes out and, y'know, make him fall in love with her original character." I'm not going to deny any of that, since there's absolutely no point, but I will admit something rather embarrassing. When "Valstann" died, I did indeed cry. It was so sad to see Fandral broken yet again. To know that he's gone insane... Well, it's a testament to the undeniable fact that though a character may be from fiction, they can still gain your favor and shred your heart.
The Last Guardian* or Batman & Robin If Batman Was Sharing A Brain With The Joker And The Joker Was A Demon Lord
by Jeff Grudd
Holy hot burrito, Medivh! You're even cooler than I ever thought! Ever since I first heard his sexy voice proclaim that the game had indeed begun in the Karazhan chess game, I knew he would be one of my favorite characters. A deep, clever-sounding voice can do that to a girl, I guess. I suppose my only issue with this book was how Medivh died. Seriously, a sword took this guy out? A sword? I guess mages really are low on armor. Should've frost armored.
He seriously has sex with Garona? And they have a kid?
...Moving right along.
Lord Of The Clans* or Who Is This Thrall And Why Should I Care?
by Christie Golden
Thrall had never been a very cool character to me before reading this book. Eh, he was an orc, I wasn't very interested in orc lore.
And then I read it.
Thrall is now one of my favorite characters in Warcraft lore. Man, I wish he was allowed to do more than just sit in Orgrimmar. Of course, with Garrosh giving him the boot, he'll be up to a lot more, maybe get some Jaina tail in the process. Good for him! About time he gets to break his long-standing virginity record.
Of Blood And Honor* or Tirion Fordring's Score For Self Favors Reaches -10
by Chris Metzen
I did in fact do Tirion Fordring's quests in Eastern Plaguelands before I knew who the hell he was. But even back then, I felt he must have been someone very important to have such an out of the way location. I'm not entirely sure why I thought that at the time, but it seemed prophetic somehow, as though he were being stowed there for later use by Blizz. I felt as though I had been there with Tirion, a stranger willing to help him through the quest chain, but realizing, at the end, I could not help him in what pained him most: the needless death of his son. A tragedy.
After reading Of Blood And Honor, I liked him even more. Now I knew who that mysterious hermit had been. But I feel that since I did the quest chain first, I understood Tirion's desire to simply be a father to his son more than anything else he had to do. His honor meant a lot to him to be willing to give up what he had.
I do realize, by the way, that he's a bunch of pixels. Thanks.
Tides of Darkness or Get The Fucking Dragon Repellant
by Aaron Rosenberg
Like I said earlier, I knew next to nothing about orc lore before reading Lord of the Clans, and frankly, I didn't feel I had any reason to care. After reading Lord of the Clans, I wondered what hand the rest of the Horde had in what had happened. Before reading Tides of Darkness, I had read Day of the Dragon, as well, so I did understand the Dragonmaw orcs were bitches who needed to be put down. All the hatred the humans have for the orcs, though, came into focus after reading Tides of Darkness. That first part of the book where the refugees of Stormwind sail through the mist to Southshore was a very strong image indeed. Also before reading this, I had no idea who Anduin Lothar was. I yelled with rage as he was struck down in battle, though. All it took was that book to give me a reason to.
Beyond The Dark Portal or Hey Look, We're Showcasing What You'll See In Burning Crusade!
by Aaron Rosenberg & Christie Golden
...Pretty much. It was cool, though! Except for Turalyon and Alleria's stupid arguing. That was boring. Aside from the lovers quarreling constantly and throwing emo bitch fits now and then, Khadgar was pretty cool, being one of the few useful characters along with Trollbane. As I've mentioned, this is the book that showcased what would be encountered in Burning Crusade: we meet arakkoa, draenei (yes, they were in Rise of the Horde, shut up), take a peek into Auchindoun, are introduced to the fact that these defenders of Azeroth will have gigantic bases in no time flat, and realize just how much of a prick Ner'zhul really is. Yeah, after reading Rise of the Horde and then this story, you'll pretty much forget ever feeling sorry for the old orc shaman ever again.
Cycle of Hatred or The War That Never Was But Would Have Made The Rest Of The Game Make More Sense
by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Back in the days when Jaina Proudmoore wasn't just some crying bunch of pixels with boobs, she was a leader of her people, the ruler of the kingdom of Theramore. Trouble is, Theramore is full of humans, and Jaina wants peace between them and the orcs. After all, she and Thrall get along together just fine (in bed), why can't they all? Obviously it's stemming from some insidious plot by a lesser demon who lives in a mountain. The whole thing was, of course, a lesson in actually knowing what's going on rather than just listening to word of mouth ("You didn't actually see that orc eating babies, now did you?"), and the importance of looking beyond what's immediately obvious to see what's going on behind the scenes.
However, if Jaina and Thrall would like to make some babies, I'd completely approve. Medivh and Garona were just a little much for my then virgin mind of such things.
Day Of The Dragon* or The One Richard Knaak Didn't Fuck Up
by Richard Knaak
Honestly, I'm not that fond of Richard Knaak as an author. I felt cheated when I read Night Of The Dragon. But Day Of The Dragon was pretty awesome, being the first book Knaak and the Warcraft team (read: Chris Metzen's fanboyism) had worked on. Though maybe I'm being unfair about what I think is good and bad; perhaps I only like Day Of The Dragon because it isn't Night Of The Dragon.
Oh, but Deathwing was in Day Of The Dragon... I love Deathwing. He's great. He's what a villain should be. I dearly hope Cataclysm doesn't fuck him up aside from us being given the chance to kill him dead. But even then, I hope he doesn't die completely. After all... He's the black knight. He's had worse.
Night Of The Dragon or I Want My $16 Back
by Richard Knaak
Between the stealth-using Draenei priestess who can single handedly steer a ship between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, the inexplicably not dead yet Blood Elf mage, Vereesa's boobs, Krasus' amazing powers being their amazing selves, the annoying speech style of Dargonax and Zzeraku, Rhonin's utterly dry and boring wisecracks, and a myriad of other things I forget but didn't like, I really felt deeply cheated and extremely unfulfilled after reading Night Of The Dragon. Why can the priestess's staff phase in and out of existence? Where can I get one? Why is she so special as to have one? Is it because she's dual classing? It's because she's dual classing, isn't it...
Arthas: Rise of the Lich King or How To Destroy A Guy In 10 Days
by Christie Golden
My favorite. Hands down, my favorite Warcraft book I've ever read. Not only does it humanize the worst threat the world of Azeroth has ever faced, it lets you into way more than Warcraft III ever said about Arthas. We never really learned of Arthas' relationship with Jaina or Uther in WCIII, details that make the story that much better. There's not much that I can say to insult this one... Even Kael'thas was good. God, and if you can get Kael'thas right, who knows what else you can do, eh?
While I re-read this book, I start to notice a few similarities between myself and Arthas. We both seem to take responsibility for things out of our control... and have the same terrible way of handling relationships. Seriously, he dumps Jaina and then gets back together with her. Where have I seen that before? Ah. My life, right. However, usually when I get back together with an ex, I don't tend to celebrate with a night of raucous sex out in the wilderness while investigating a lethal plague that is terrorizing the populace of my kingdom.
Ashbringer or This Is Why You Don't Shelter One Child And Not The Other
by Micky Nielson, art by Ludo Lullabi & Tony Washington
EVERYONE IS SO GODDAMN INTENSE ALL THE TIME.
Really, every expression is always twisted in rage or fear. And if they aren't, brows are furrowed. I understand this is basically just Lullabi's art style (though knowing how comics work, he probably only drew half of it) but honestly, give some wider range of expression.
The Sunwell Trilogy or Tyri's In-game Model Will Never Look This Amazing And You Can Bet On It
by Richard Knaak, art and cover art by Kim Jae-Hwan
Kalecgos is a pretty cool character, really. He's a blue dragon that actually gives a crap about mortals (to an extent) and seems genuinely interested in their welfare. The case is especially true with Anveena, a young girl who ends up saving his life from dragon hunters.
Other appearances are an increasingly declothed Sylvanas Windrunner, the haughty, completely believable (as a manga girl) Tyrygosa, sullen and brooding Jorad Mace, and... Krasus. Krasus, can you maybe not be in a story for a while? Or at least can you help us kill Malygos? Come to think of it, whenever Kalecgos resurfaces in World of Warcraft, will he be pissed off at us players for slaying the Lord of Magic or will he know that Krasus was the one who gave us shiny necklaces for killing him? Guess we'll find out.
On a side note, I'd like to have Dar'khan's hat. He himself is kind of a creepy guy, but... Mmmm. We see Arthas in this one, too. That sexy bitch.
World of Warcraft: Volume One or Being An Amnesiac Will Have No Effect On Your Life Except For Your Storyline
✯✯✯✯✯by Walter Simonson, art by Ludo Lullabi & Sandra Hope with Richard Friend (#2), Philip Moy (#5&7), Carrie Strachan (#5&6)
A human who can't remember his name is found by Rehgar Earthfury and added to his team of gladiator slaves. The human, nicknamed Lo'gosh for his prowess in the ring, realizes he has better shit to do than fight in blood sports, and runs away with Broll, the druid of the team. Valeera, the rogue of the team, also runs along because hey, there went all the men who ever gave a shit about her. Chris Metzen also writes an amusing foreword in which he nerdgasms all over The Mighty Thor and a slew of other comic books for pretty much writing Warcraft for him.
Good story. I do feel, however, Varian was kind of... Y'know... OP. Aside from Varian's 1337 h4xx0r5, we meet new characters: Broll Bearmantle, a druid with antlers who feels inadequate about their length; Valeera Sanguinar, a blood elf rogue with attitude (surprise!); and Rehgar Earthfury, a shaman who isn't too miffed that his slaves escape him. Each character finds a happy ending one way or another (well, except Valeera) and solutions to their various problems.
* indicates the titles were included in the Warcraft Archive