Thursday, 18 October 2012

WoW - the comic #1-7

Hello and welcome to our next review. This time, we're covering the first arc of the world of warcraft ongoing comic. Written by Walt Simonson and illustrated by Ludo Lullabi (Mild-mannered artist by day, he becomes the superhero Soundmaster by night), the main goal of the world of warcraft comic (at least of the first two arcs) was to introduce a character that would change the warcraft setting forever, for good and for bad. During the third arc it was tried again, but that character was so intensely loathed, blizzard was forced to press the “abort” button.

Simonson is actually a pretty large name in the comics industry, having done high-profile work for over 30 years by the time the warcraft comics came out. I actually did read some of his other stuff, and really liked it. So let's see if he can work his magic on the warcraft series as well. Let's dive right into the first story.

Our comic revolves around a team of gladiators who fight in a tournament called the Crimson Ring, which is held by the ogres of Dire Maul. The team consists of three people, a legendary orc warrior named Bloodeye, a mighty night elf druid named Broll Bearmantle and a completely untrained and malnourished blood elf thief named Valeera Sanguinar. Yeah, I have no idea why the hell she is on the team. The team is led by Rehgar Earthfury, an orc shaman and a champion of the first two wars.

Our comic starts with the dead Bloodeye being given a funeral pyre. It seems he was poisoned only a day after Rehgar bought Valeera (inhaling those sacred shaman herbs is really averse to your judgement). Most of the prologue is Broll giving Valeera the backstory of Bloodeye and Rehgar. While it's not really relevant to the overall story, it is actually a pretty nicely developed background. However, one odd thing in the backstory is that Rehgar eventually started following Thrall's teachings, becoming a shaman. After which he bought himself some slaves to fight in a gladiatorial arena. Seems he forgot to took notes during Thrall's lessons, as Thrall not only opposes slavery, but was actually a slave gladiator himself, developing a special hatred for that practice.

Issue One
In the first issue, we meet our protagonist, who washes ashore in Bladefist Bay. This guy, a human, goes through several names throughout the story as he can't remember his original name. As he is now attacked by a crocolisk, the first of his names shall be Croc-Bait. Anyone who has played WoW will know that Bladefist Bay all the way in the north-eastern part of Durotar. Unless you're specifically heading for the bay, there is no reason to even get close. However, in the comic, it's apparently right next to the main road through Durotar, as Rehgar's caravan, travelling from Dire Maul to Orgrimmar, stumbles across Croc-bait. As Rehgar watches the human defeat the crocolisk with only a plank of wood, he is impressed and decides to capture him for his gladiator team. Way to uphold Thrall's teachings, Rehgar.

Croc-bait talks to his fellow gladiators, giving us the backstory to Valeera. Valeera's parents were killed during the scourge invasion of Quel'thalas. She was only a young girl when this happened and she fled into the wilderness, being forced to survive on her own. She did pretty well, until she was caught trying to steal an amulet from an orcish shaman, and she was captured only a few days ago, after which she was sold to Rehgar. While I do like this backstory, there are a few things that detract from it. First of all, the art seems really shoddy.

First of all: those two people in the background are supposed to be undead. Yeah, it took me a while to figure out as well. More importantly, it's clear that Valeera here is just a small child, the equivalent of eight to ten human years old, maybe even a bit younger. Elves age slower than humans and the culling of Silvermoon only took place four to six years before the events of this comic. So, Valeera should obviously still look like a small chi..

What's especially weird about this is how Croc-Bait comments that she looks just like a child, which leads to the reply you see above. Does this look like a child to anyone? And if she was intended to look like a child, why would the artist continue to draw in that outfit and in those poses?

On a related note, what's with the outfit? Does that seem like practical gladiatorial gear to anyone? And before you get on my neck about the revealing outfits of the sentinels or Sylvanas: those people are A) not supposed to engage in close-quarters combat, B) unarmoured all around, giving them some sort of mobility advantage, rather than still wearing heavy gloves and boots, C) immune to cold weather. I'm also a bit confused about where Valeera got the outfit, considering she was captured in a different outfit and has only been a member of the gladiatorial team for a single day when she's first seen wearing this. Did Rehgar just have a revealing leather outfit that magically fits perfectly around its wearer lying around? 

However, let's ignore the art for a moment and talk about something much more important: Why is Valeera a blood elf? She has been on her own ever since the original invasion of Quel'thalas, so she didn't join Kael'thas' group of survivors or the elves of silvermoon. So where did she get the green eyes? How does she know how to drain magic? Why does everyone, including her, act like she's some sort of representative of the blood elf mindset and actions, despite the fact that she never even lived in a blood elf community? The history of the blood elves also gets a major misrepresentation here, with broll claiming that the blood elves joined the horde to sate their thirst for magic (rather than joining because the forsaken assisted them after the alliance attacked their lands). The section also mentions that Garithos was a member of the current alliance, which I'd like you to remember for a future topic, when I cover the mess that is the alliance backstory.

This is (If I remember correctly) also the first time the idea that only male night elves are allowed to be druids is brought up in canon, along with the idea that the majority of the elven males slept in the emerald dream. This is an idea makes absolutely no sense, as Cenarius was willing to teach Tyrande back in the war of the ancients, and only didn't because she was already a follower of Elune. So the only way this would make sense is if the night elves themselves decided that no chicks were allowed in the druid club, but that would have to be a decision made by Malfurion, which would be more than a bit out of character. And as for the idea that the majority of the night elf males slept? Even if it was the majority that initially went to sleep in the emerald dream, there would be plenty of time for new men to be born in the ten thousand years between the war of the ancients and the third war.

Our issue ends with our team winning their first gladiatorial battle, but being attacked by a huge orc (Seriously, that guy is at least four heads taller than Croc-bait) hired by Rehgar to test them.

Issue Two
And the orc gets his ass kicked by Croc-Bait almost instantly. Thanks for setting up that pointless cliffhanger. The orc gets called a blademaster several times, despite the fact that he doesn't use any of the blademaster magical powers. I think the idea came from the RPG, where horde gladiators were called blademasters.

Our team travels to Dire Maul, where they begin fighting in the crimson ring. They do pretty well, laying waste to the individual challenges, and beating a team of ogres in the team competition. Croc-bait does especially well, with his speed and agility earning him his new name: Lo'gosh, named after an ancient legend about a great wolf. However, the crowd seems a bit too enthusiastic about all this. I think the implication isn't supposed to be that they're likening him to Lo'gosh and giving him a nickname, but that they actually believe he is Lo'gosh reborn. Despite the fact that all he did was fight in an agile manner. Are there no other legends about agile warriors?

At the end of the issue, we get another cliffhanger, with a random tauren woman wanting to buy Valeera for an all-female gladiatorial team.

Issue Three
One odd thing about the early covers for the world of warcraft comic series is that they all feature Lo'gosh with some sort of red face-paint, something which he never has in the comic itself. Actually, the face itself also looks slightly off-model from the portrayal in the comic as well. And each other for that matter. Were the covers done before they settled on the final character design or something?
Broll, Lo'gosh and Rehgar travel to Thunder Bluff, where they are going to get a replacement for Valeera  While Broll and Lo'gosh are in Thunder Bluff, they plan to visit the pools of vision, which are said to be gateways for messages from the dead. For Broll, this will allow him to talk to his dead daughter. For Lo'gosh, this might restore his memory.

Wait, how does that work? I can understand trying to find a dead person who knew Lo'gosh to talk to, but Broll says that the idea is for Lo'gosh to undertake a cleansing ritual to restore his memory. How does having pools that allow you to speak to the dead help with that?

The tauren say that there is a cave elemental loose in the pools of vision, and Cairne is trying to reason with it, rather than simply destroying it. However, Broll and Lo'gosh plan to visit anyway, in a panel that makes them look outright possessed.

In the pools, both see short visions. Lo'gosh sees his wife and his son being torn away from him, while Broll sees his daughter being consumed by flames. If I'm allowed to nitpick about the caverns some more, that seems more like visions of death rather than messages from the dead.

Of course, Broll and Lo'gosh are attacked by the cave elemental during the vision, but Lo'gosh beats it up with a boulder. Cairne is thankful that the human ruined his attempts to make peace with the spirit and invites him over to elder rise. Seriously, what the hell? Hamuul Runetotem gives us the backstory of the Lo'gosh that our Lo'gosh was named after. He was one of the ancient guardians who fought in the war of the ancients, a great white wolf who died in the region that would later be known as the barrens. According to the night elves, who call him Goldrinn (that really doesn't seem like an elvish name), the spirit of Goldrinn was later seen at Eldre'thalas, guiding the night elves in their defence. After that, cultures around the world started to develop stories about a great wolf, whose sheer will and ferocity allowed him to defy death.

Finally, Hamuul Runetotem gives Broll and Lo'gosh a mysterious blue feather. Broll, being a druid, realises that it is a magical hippogryph feather, which can be used to summon the hippogryph to whom it belongs. So, Broll and Lo'gosh do exactly that, holding off the various orcish guards (I guess all the tauren braves are on a coffee break) until it arrives. The text mentions that the creature originated from Ashenvale, which is two regions to the north of Mulgore. Yet it doesn't seem that more than a few minutes have passed until it arrives at Thunder Bluff. Is Simonson under the impression that World of Warcraft is an accurate depiction of the scale of Azeroth?

Rehgar isn't exactly angry that the two have escaped, already having assumed that they were going to do so sooner or later anyway. However, he doesn't want to let them off too easy and sends wyvern riders after them. He can do that, because he is a random gladiator master without any official authority.

Valeera has also escaped from her captors, arriving at Thunder Bluff around the same time that Broll and Lo'gosh escape. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman is looking at the events through some sort of magic mirror, and orders a member of the stormwind assassin guild to go after Varian.

Issue Four
As someone who reads a fair amount of comics, I have to say that the pace of these stories is rather refreshing. Usually, stories in modern comics tend to be rather stretched out. Sometimes it works, allowing more time for action or build-up, but often it doesn't, with the extra space taken up by filler or two-page spreads. Here, we have a lot of action, a good amount of characterisation for each character and still have room for the plot to advance at a rather good pace. Well, usually. This and the next issue, the plot moves a bit too fast, and much of the exposition is really, really awkward.

Varian and Broll have a good bit of aerial action going as they fight off the wyverns sent after them. I feel bad for the orc guards that are getting slaughtered. People who have dedicated their lives to protect their society, now dying in a suicide mission to recover two slaves that even their owner doesn't expect to get back.

After escaping, the two head for Ashenvale, where they run into a match of Warsong Gulch. They spot a large horde force lying in ambush for an approaching alliance army, and rush to inform the alliance forces, who were apparently too stupid to use any aerial scouting themselves (even though we see them use hippogryphs during the fight). I'm also a bit confused about this whole 'armies' thing. I always assumed that the battles in ashenvale were small border skirmishes, since the alliance and horde have this peace agreement thingie. When you start sending armies at each other, aren't you at war? And this isn't some single low-ranking commander causing trouble either. It's a joint assault by night elves, humans and dwarves versus orcs, tauren and trolls.

While the battle initially goes well for the alliance, thanks mostly to Lo'gosh' tactics (the night elves themselves would never think of using an ambush of course, since... erm... this book was written after warcraft 3 and therefore night elves suck in battle?). However, when the orc shaman leading the defence summons a powerful lava elemental to counter the assault, he loses control, unleashing the lava elemental on the forests of ashenvale. To stop the forest from being burned down, Broll unleashes some sort of hidden power. Throughout the story, Broll has had some rage issues, and here we see the true extent, as his sheer internal fury summons a storm to extinguish the elemental. However, Broll loses control, and thorned roots attack everyone on the battlefield until Lo'gosh knocks him out. And thus the alliance wins the battle.

Wait, how did they win? The horde outnumbered the alliance significantly, and the only way the alliance could win was through an ambush. However, when the alliance struck, one of the first things the shaman did was summon the lava elemental. With broll going into rage mode immediately afterwards, stunning both the alliance and the horde, both factions were affected equally and the alliance lost the element of surprise. So how has the alliance won the battle when Broll is knocked out? Shouldn't they still be outnumbered at this point?

Anyway, following the random victory, we're given Broll's backstory. Having been born with antlers (I feel so sorry for his mother), he was expected to be a prodigy in druidism. However, while he was pretty decent, he wasn't anything special. Remulos, a powerful keeper of the grove, gave Broll an idol in the hopes of unlocking his true potential, though it was unsuccessful. During the battle of mount hyjal, Broll was part of a small outpost that was attacked by Azgalor. Azgalor easily knocks Broll asides and strikes the idol with his fel blade. Broll's daughter, Anveena, tries to save him, but she is turned to cinders when the idol explodes in a burst of fel energy. Following the battle, Broll grew more and more dark, losing control over his animal transformations. In the end, Broll decided to run away and join the crimson ring, in the hopes of regaining control. While there are a few minor timeline issues (Broll having more than one form before the battle of Mount Hyjal, broll stating that he joined the crimson ring before the orcs got a presence in Ashenvale), I do overall really like this backstory.

Meanwhile, in Thunder Bluff, Valeera spies on Magatha and the Stormwind assassin discussing plans to kill Lo'gosh. Apparently, the forsaken are also involved in this, but that plot point goes absolutely nowhere.

Issue 5
Broll and Lo'gosh head for Thistlefur Hold, where they've heard stories of Broll's old idol being in the hands of the local furbolg. The dialogue in this issue is really stilted, with tons of unneeded exposition and odd sentences.

Broll and Lo'gosh sneak into the furbolg compound, and find the idol. However, the green dragon connected to the idol has become corrupted as well (something which they really should have seen coming) and attacks them. The rest of the comic makes absolutely no sense in greater warcraft lore, to the point where I'm going to have to do a step by step:
  1. Lo'gosh tries to strike the dragon, but he is unable to hit it, as the dragon phases into the emerald dream. The only way to kill it is to attack it from both the emerald dream (which Broll enters) and the real world at once. An ability like this would make the green dragonflight unstoppable in any battle, as the only people capable of entering the emerald dream with any ease are those allied with the green dragonflight. We also see that the emerald dream allows you to enter azeroth in any location you want. How are any enemies of the green dragonflight still alive? Why doesn't a green dragon just teleport into Onyxia's lair and kill her?
  2. As Broll enters the emerald dream, he is attacked by a manifestation of his own rage. We never see any clear shots of his surroundings, but its pretty clear he is in some dreamscape, where his inner self is manifested. Everywhere else, the dream is just a primordial Azeroth, filled with jungles, but it acts nothing like that here.
  3. Broll's inner rage is actually his bear spirit, which has grown out of control. Broll's other spirits show up to aid him in regaining control. This makes no sense, as the animals spirits are the ancient guardians. If Broll's bear spirit is so overwhelmed by rage, all bear spirits should be suffering from the same problem, as they're drawn from the same creatures (Ursoc and Ursol).
  4. As Broll regains control of all his spirits, he is able to instantly remove corruption from the idol with only a wave of his hand, instantly breaking the corruption of the green dragon and of the furbolg. In every other instance where it appears, we see that corruption is a huge problem, which affects the very land around it. Even if you remove the source of the corruption, you don't instantly heal all of its effects. If that was the case, felwood should have been instantly cured when Illidan absorbed the skull of Gul'dan.
Issue 6
Our issue starts with Valeera following the human assassin, who travels to the night elves we saw in issue 4. The night elves are happy to answer all the questions of the mysterious human who doesn't identify himself, because all night elves suffered a brain aneurysm after the battle of mount hyjal. It gets even better when the night elves attack the spying Valeera, who tells them that she is the blood elf that fought alongside Broll and Lo'gosh. Of course, they don't belief here, and they attack her. Yeah, why should they belief that a blood elf fought alongsi...

Wait a minute, later in the book, they mention that they knew that there was a blood elf champion in dire maul. And Broll caught up with his cousin only a day ago, so it's hard to imagine Valeera never came up. The night elves do mention that they don't believe Valeera could be her because she looks to be only a child. But, if she looks like just a child, why are you trying to slaughter her? You took the orcs, trolls and tauren prisoner, so why kill the fleeing blood elf child?

Meanwhile, Broll and Lo'gosh are visiting Fandral Stormrage, giving him the idol of Remulos. Afterwards, they are invited for dinner by Tyrande Whisperwind herself. While she can't do anything about it, she senses an aura of dark magic surrounding Lo'gosh, advising him to visit Jaina Proudmoore in Theramore. Just before the two can reach Theramore, the assassin tries to shoot them down, but he is intercepted by Valeera. Broll and Lo'gosh miss all this and have a meeting with Jaina while Valeera struggles for her life, until she is saved by a mysterious woman with white hair, who brings the unconscious blood elf to Theramore. Jaina tries to disspell Lo'gosh' curse, summoning her chamberlain, who turns out to be the mysterious woman, to assist her. Man, that really is one hell of a pile-up of coincidences. Lo'gosh, the assassin, Valeera and the mysterious chamberlain all being in this incredibly small area, despite the first having a headstart of several hours on the second and third person, and the fourth person having absolutely no reason to be in the swamp. Plus, there's the fact that Broll and Lo'gosh apparently didn't notice they were being followed, nor did the assassin. They really need to install some rear mirrors on them flying mounts.

And here, we get the most important reveal of the series. Lo'gosh is actually Varian Wrynn, the king of Stormwind, who vanished while travelling to Theramore. There is an obvious parallel between Varian Wrynn and Thrall. Both were slaves, forced to be gladiators. However, there is a key difference I want you to keep in mind for when we discuss WotLK: Varian was enslaved for only a short period, during which he was generally treated well and generally respected, even being freed by a leader amongst the horde. Thrall was enslaved from a very young age, and had to fight for his freedom and the only human to ever show any form of kindness or respect was a lowly messenger that was brutally slaughtered.

Issue 7
Jaina gives Lo'gosh her personal ship, which he uses to travel to Stormwind. However, a group of naga recognise it as Jaina's ship and attack. As our trio of heroes are legendary gladiators, they really don't have much of an issue fighting off less than a dozen naga. The siren that was commanding the naga summons a couatl and starts firing bolts of arcane power at the ship. To stop the latter, Valeera jumps at the siren, stealing her magical trident. The comic is apparently going by RPG rules, as Valeera is risking corruption just by using the trident for its intended purpose. And no, it's not fel magic or some other dark sorcery or anything. It's just a simple magical trident. Yet its enough for Broll to start panicking, thinking its going make Valeera addicted to arcane energy. Valeera. You know, the blood elf? A species where every member is already addicted to arcane energy? And before you think it's just Broll being distrustful of the arcane because of his night elf upbringing, her growing addiction because of this is actually a major plot point in the next story arc.

Lo'gosh' battle with the siren causes all his memories to return, and he quickly finishes her off. As the first arc finishes, our heroes stare off into the sunset. They're probably discussing why their boat is suddenly intact again after all the damage during the battle.

I'm a bit divided what to feel about this arc. On the one hand, it has a pretty decent overall plot and the characters are pretty interesting. On the other hand, there's a lot of minor flaws that an editor should have caught.

Story: As I said, the overall plot is pretty good and the pacing is pretty well done. The only issue that disappoints in this regard is issue 4. While it works as a set-up for Broll's backstory, the rest of the issue is pretty much irrelevant to the overall story. The dialogue in the story felt a bit awkward, like I was reading an old comic from the 70's. Issue 5 was the worst in that regard, with almost every line being exposition, even giving exposition for stuff we already know.
However, the main problem is the lack of attention to details. While I don't expect Simonson to personally know every detail of the backstory, he isn't supposed to be the only person working on these books. Unfortunately, blizzard didn't provide the editor, but DC did, assigning the book to Hank Kanalz, best known as the co-writer for the very first issue of Youngblood. The only issue in the arc to have any blizzard employees listed at all is issue 7, which has Chris Metzen and Micky Neilson as story consultants.
However, continuity problems aren't the only problems here. There is a lot of minor issues internally. For example, take the distances. It takes a few minutes for a hippogryph to fly from Ashenvale to Thunder Bluff, yet it takes at least an entire night to travel from Darnassus to Theramore. On that same note, the world as presented here is frigging small, with even the most generous guess putting Kalimdor as being the size of Germany at the very most.

Characters: I really like these guys. Despite some similarities to Thrall's backstory, Lo'gosh does actually manage to stand on his own as an interesting and likeable character. Broll is also memorable and is probably the character that undergoes the most change. It's really fun to compare his banter with Valeera from the first issues with the banter from the last issue. Valeera is the least developed character, a result of her being on her own for three issues. It's hard to develop when you can only talk to yourself. As a side note, I do think that it would have added to the character had Valeera actually looked more like a child. As it is now, all of her personality seem to be derived from her race, so it would really benefit to give her some unique characteristics.

Art: The art is generally a bit cartoonish, but that fits with the game its all derived from. Otherwise its good, though I get the idea that Ludo Lullabi was a bit lazy in some places. Many panels have the characters covered in darkness, with only their eyes visible, even in places where it makes no sense. However, the art for the backgrounds is absolutely fantastic and makes the transition from game to comic really well. I find the covers by Jim Lee a bit mediocre. While the art is good, they don't really tell you anything about the book or connect to the warcraft universe. Plus, there is the odd difference between Varian on the cover and Varian in the book I mentioned before. The only cover that really fits with the art inside the book is the cover of issue 7, which was drawn by Ludo Lullabi, Sandra Hope and Samwise Didier.

This story had a lot of potential, but lack of oversight makes it lose a lot of points with me. Of the three arcs of this series, I would rate this one second. While it doesn't have the focus of the second arc, it is much, much better than any of the Med'an stuff. But that idiotic arc is a story for another day, when we start covering stuff related to the disaster that is cataclysm.

Next: Back to the RPG.


  1. This was a great review, I enjoy reading just about all of your reviews. ^^
    I don't know why but her being a Blood Elf really bothers me. There is no reason, she's never drained any magic from demons. So by all rights she should still be a blue eyed arcane influenced High Elf, like the ones in Theramore.

    I think it could have been amusing if in Theramore, she met a High Elf and that High Elf corrected her because she never did anything any Blood Elf would do. Also how did she get all the way to Kalimdor? They probably explain it, but it kind of bugs me.

  2. They're not supposed to be undead they're supposed to be living human marauders from Lordaeron. It's well-known cannon. She survived the siege on her own years after her parents had died, as a young teenager which just shows how bad ass a rogue she is. While 90% of the elves of Quel'thalas died around her, she was one of the few survivors.

  3. This is rather old, but I have an answer for the whole "Why is she a blood elf" question.

    She inherited the addiction from her mother. I don't remember the source for that (I was pretty sure it was actually this specific comment), but yeah, she inherited it. I seem to remember it being because she drank her mother's breast milk.

  4. This is rather old, but I have an answer for the whole "Why is she a blood elf" question.

    She inherited the addiction from her mother. I don't remember the source for that (I was pretty sure it was actually this specific comment), but yeah, she inherited it. I seem to remember it being because she drank her mother's breast milk.