Vox Machina: Origins, issue 4 – The story goes dark

Reviews

I’m a bit behind on the reviews but… Oh my, this comic book is everything I’ve ever wanted (until the animated series comes out, and then the 10-season live action TV series).

Ending the last issue on a high note, with “roll initiative” in the air, Matt Colville decided to throw the characters under the bus. The villain is deadly, intelligent, and doesn’t care at all that the protagonists would very much like to loot her afterwards, thank you very much. I cannot wait to read more about her, and her compatriots.

The story progresses just like it should, seeing as we’re 66% into the story arc – there’s a party to be assembled, and the main characters must go through the hardships and tribulations to achieve their final goals in issue six. And yet, even though it’s classic story composition, it still feels natural and fresh. Vex is incredible and believable (she made such progress during the campaign!), Keyleth has the best facial expressions, and Scanlan is the most genre-savvy character I’ve seen in a long time.

But the story needs more Percy.

I’m going to leave you with my favourite snippet of this issue: Tiberius being awesome.Opera Zdjęcie_2018-02-06_202254_digital.darkhorse.com.png

Vox Machina: Origins, issue 3 – The plot thickens

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There’s a lot of plot threads sort of converging in this scene. Usually when that happens not everyone survives.

Why write reviews when you can just quote Scanlan?

So, the third volume came out today, and though I have next to no time whatsoever for writing a blog lately (toy business is kind of hectic before Christmas), I couldn’t skip this one. Writen, as before, by the illustrious Matt Colville, the third issue takes on the incredibly heavy duty of bringing all of the characters together. As might have been expected – with paranoid twins, prone to anger Grog and generally detached Scanlan – this does not go smoothly.

Ab ovo, though. Drawn by Olivia Samson and coloured by Chris Northrop, this is still one of the prettiest things I’m reading these days. But what stood out even more this time for me is the amazing work of Chris Kawagiwa, who was expertly handling the layouts. I do not know who decided to use the grid to show the placement of the character (especially those behind the secret doors), but it’s genius.

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The beginning of the story covers the poisoned swamp plot from the third side, as Keyleth and Tiberius (plus their party) are working for the Clasp to uncover the reasons why the mob is losing their profits. Which doesn’t actually go exactly as one might anticipated. Anyway, the Clasp is evil (in case somebody thinks that thieves’ guilds are full of bleeding-heart Robin Hoods), shaking down your employer may not be the best idea, and the race goes to the most motivated. I can’t wait to see how it goes in the next issue.

To not spoil to much, we cut to bickering twins in the sewers, amazing idea of disguising ourselves as ourselves, but poorer, Kiki rolling well on Perception (Keen Senses), Tiberius having the most amazing conversation with a dog, and Scanlan being an incredible bard.

The amount of puns, jokes, and splendid interpretations of usefulness of a bard in a fight (oh, boy. I need more of this), make this comic book worth every minute spent on reading and re-reading. The plot brings together all of the characters (minus Pike and Percy, which is a still a disappointment), playing off various strengths and weaknesses, and finally introducing the villain to the PCs.

In short, I’m seriously impressed. Third issue is great, even if slightly darker than the previous ones (although the series started with an infant sacrifice…). I thought it might be just sentiment for the Critical Role, but then it became apparent it’s just a quality piece of entertainment.

Let me just finish off with this golden piece of Scanlan:

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Vox Machina: Origins, issue 2 – Somehow even funnier

Reviews

It’s not that I’m forced to write about Critical Role all the time, but it somehow seems like the most enjoyable part of the RPG world these days. And they’ve just announced that the artbook will be available on 9 November, and the campaign’s over, and the comic book is just brilliant.

Second issue of the Origins comic book is available since today on Darkhorse and everywhere else where you can get digital comic books. I got mine this morning od Darkhorse’s website, and then spent several hours at work, not really being able to read it yet. Exercises in patience are a terrible thing, especially when you’re a proud owner of three-second patience window.

The book – again, 27 pages – takes us on a road parallel to the one travelled before. Namely, to the path of Scanlan Shorthalt and Grog Strongjaw (and the rest of their adventuring party), as they’re raiding and looting an ancient temple, somewhere in the swamp. That, quite cleverly, sets the characters on the road that will surely get them to Vax and Vex, as they’re clearly doing the same quest, just from another end. (Tiberius and Keyleth are heading in the same direction!)

Future Grand Poobah and Bard Extraordinaire are a part of an adventuring group, comprising them, a wizard named Vash, a knight and a cleric. A bunch of assholes, according to Scanlan. After clearing the shark-men temple and recovering relics, they get back to Stilben, and visit an alchemist shop (yes, the same as featured in issue one). An assassination attempt later (looks like Vax was right about that), they visit the tavern. The end.

Well, no. Surprisingly – one would expect a lot of action and shenanigans from the main duo – half of the issue is a series of social encounters. Intriguing? Yes. Entertaining? Yes. Tense, surprising and randomly changing directions? Definitely. It requires a talent to write the action scenes, but even greater to write – and draw! – long conversations in comics so they captivate the reader entirely. Here’s the thing: a big round of applause for Olivia Samson for drawing the seemingly static, repetitive panels with talking characters with such intelligent, subtle twist, that I haven’t even noticed them in the first read.

Scanlan’s chat with Tiberius takes up four pages, and almost all of the panels look like this:

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Just half of a goliath, a gnome and a dragonborn by the bar, chatting, barely moving. And then you’ve got the bartender, who basically goes through all stages of grief in the background. It’s easy to miss when you concentrate on the dialogue (sparkling!), and the scene has a very cinematographic feel of a one, long take with almost no cuts whatsoever, but the stillness and repetitiveness basically forces your mind to look for the details that make the images different. And boy, they are delightful.

The second issue is great. As the first one was based on action and investigation, this one is calmer; combat encounters are quick and deadly, and character interactions take up much more space. Maybe because the twins were quite in sync, maybe because it’s sort of expected when the main character is a charismatic gnomish minstrel.

In any case,

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Vox Machina: Origins, issue 1 – The best so far

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If by off chance you’ve missed the online phenomenon that is Critical Role, please look here to start your journey with the adventuring party of Vox Machina. Highly recommended.

Anyway.

As much as I love Critical Role, I was always missing some kind of visual enhancement. True, Matthew Mercer’s descriptions of the world are impeccable, imaginative and incredible, but my brain is extremely visually-oriented. (Thank Critters for fanart!)

First issue of Critical Role comic book, Vox Machina: Origins is just a godsend. Written by Matt Colville and Matt Mercer (well, mostly the former), and brilliantly illustrated by Olivia Samson, it’s not only a great addition to the universe – it actually makes an amazing standalone project. Tested on a innocent bystander who’d never seen the show.

First issue covers a beginning of a quest undertaken by Vex’ahlia and her twin brother Vax’ildan, two half-elves trying to survive on the unfriendly streets and swamps of Stilben. A curse has befallen the poor folk of the shanty town, affecting mostly their newborns. Vex and Vax more or less enthusiastically are looking into possible causes, going from heart-wrenching story on one page of the story, through bitter cynicism on the second, familial bickering on the third, and full-on adrenaline-punched action on another. And yet, it’s still consistent and engaging.

Twins are intelligent, likable and beliveable, to the point of the brain auto-dubbing the dialogue with the proper voices. Conversations are sparkling. It’s actually quite interesting to see the quasi-starting point for the character development. Vax is hopeful, empathetic, considerate and not afraid of looking ridiculous in front of his sister. Vex is bitter, mixing self-confidence with inferiority complex, prone to violence, and (of course) better looking than her twin. Keyleth is as good, pure and innocent as it’s virtually possible. (Which makes me want to rewatch the episodes with Keyleth/Raishan confrontations.)

Art is beautiful, colour palette (courtesy of Chris Northop) is amazing (nothing says murky swamp more than these shades of cyan and malachite), cover art (by Deborah Hauber) should be printed in a large scale as posters. At least I know I’d love to have art like that on my wall, not just my phone wallpaper.

Admittedly, I expected more of this comic – that is, more than 27 pages. (And more than just one shot of Percy.) I’m not used to reading comic books in issues, I’m more of a collected (and collectors’) edition type of a person. Which doesn’t change a fact that there was no way I could wait until next Spring to get my fix of Vox Machina backstory. And after this issue, I only expect the next ones to get better.