I speak from a position of authority here…well, let’s face it, I always speak from a position of authority. But needless to say, I’ve been reading D&D comics as often as I have been able to get my grubby hands on them almost as long as I first played D&D (when I was 8 years old).
In the beginning there was the Age of DC (2e in D&D terms). It started with the old Forgotten Realms title for me and shortly after I found the Dungeons and Dragons title (oddly enough, also set in the Forgotten Realms) published at the same time. I think I even ran into a couple of Spelljammer books here and there. Then the there was the lean years with almost nothing and I remembered the Dungeons and Dragons comics of yesteryear with a sense of nostalgia.
In college, however, we entered the Kenzer Co. Age (3e). Okay, sure, it happened before that, but I wasn’t reading comics then, and since I wasn’t reading them then they must not have been worth reading. My experience with this D&D comic was much more complete. Rather than snagging a few issues here and there off the spinner rack at the local Hy-Vee (that’s a Midwestern grocery story, folks) as a reward for getting an “A” on a spelling test like I did of the progenitor titles, this time I was a regular collector. I got every issue and even had a few signed. This too, however, it seemed, could not last.
Then we were ushered into the current age of D&D comics where two publishers have taken a crack at it with very different approaches, so we have two sub-Ages. First, the Devils Due Age. This was the age of conversion. Taking classic D&D-based stories and converting them into comic form. Drizzt, Dragonlance, Elminster…all the classic characters saw some love.
And recently we ushered in the Age of IDW (4e). When it started in 2010 there was the Dungeons and Dragons title and the Dark Sun mini-series (released to coincide with the release of the WotC product of the same setting). And while all mini-series must end, Dark Sun has since been replaced with the Legend of Drizzt title which supports the Neverwinter novel series by filling in a gap in time between novels (and also coinciding with a campaign setting book release last summer). To make matters even better, IDW also got the rights to publish the old DC Comics books in collected editions.
So that’s the D&D comics, in a nutshell…I told you I was an authority on this stuff.
Time to figure out which was the greatest ever. I’ve avoided judgement calls, to this point and just given you facts. Now it’s time to lay down some truth. If you aren’t ready for it, stop reading.
Let’s go through the list in order from least greatest to greatest greatest, because, honestly, I enjoyed them all.
The Kenzer Co. Age comics, unfortunately fall to the bottom of the list. I recall the stories alright and recall distinctly being underwhelmed. The art was good, the stories were a bit slow, the characters were “meh”, and the whole thing took itself too seriously…to the point that I almost didn’t recognize D&D in the story telling (although it was clear from the art).
Next up in our list is the Age of Devils Due. These books do a fantastic job of bringing stories I know and love to life with vivid images. But some of the stories translate better than others, which is to be expected when you turn a novel into a comic.
Then comes the Age of DC. Okay, yes, the art is dated…very dated at times. Man there is some serious 80s hair and sparkly Jem-style earrings. But going back and reading these books in the collected form recently I found that the stories largely hold up. They take themselves just seriously enough to allow the sense of humor that D&D needs. There is some fun crossover stories going on with different titles where Spelljammer, Dragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms all get to play with each other. The Forgotten Realms comic is probably the best of this bunch and I would recommend it highly. In fact, today (as I write this) IDW has just launched a D&D 100 page spectacular where you can get a taste of several of these titles digitally. A good investment
So that means that the greatest D&D comic ever is from the current age, the Age of IDW. Okay, the Dark Sun comic was fun but not as good as it should have been. The entire series felt like the start of a story that had potential and then it was done just as I started to care about what was going on. It failed to grab me early and just as it did…poof, it’s gone. The Legend of Drizzt book is going fine, but if you’re not into the current trilogy of novels there may be some things that feel odd. But holy-freaking-cow the Dungeons and Dragons title is just about the best comic I’m reading today. Written by John Rogers (who also brings you the show Leverage) this comic understands the fun of D&D. It has an interesting and engaging storyline, but it also has the moments of humor that remind you of the most hilarious things that happen at your game table.
I don’t care what games you play, or what editions of which games your playing, the bottom line is this. If you’re not reading the current Dungeons and Dragons comic book by IDW (available at your local comic shops or digitally from Comixology or in your Comics app on your favorite gadget) you are missing the GREATEST D&D COMIC EVER!