Saturday, June 13, 2009

Forgotten Realms: Issue 1 – The Hand of Vaprak

In the year 1989, DC comics and TSR joined together to launch several Dungeons & Dragons themed comic books. The flagship title was called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and was set in Waterdeep. Other titles included the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer.

As a fan of Dungeons & Dragons and of comic books I decided to check them out. Sadly, I found most of them to be a disappointment. In fact, I think my distaste for most comic book adaptations, of anything, stems from this period.

There was one exception though. I have a soft spot for the Forgotten Realms comic. It may not be high art, but it kept me entertained through most of its run. Most of the praise has to go to Jeff Grubb and Rags Morales, who kept the story and art pulpy and fun.

I think this book tends to get overlooked by people who might enjoy it. If you can find back issues at the local comic book store or eBay, I am sure you can pick them up cheap. Also, they are bound to be available for download via BitTorrent.

(Not that I would ever condone piracy. After all Greg Leeds would be appalled at the potential lost revenue stream.)

So in the tradition of Polite Scott’s obsession with Hawk and Dove, I am going to do overviews of the entire 25 issue series. These overviews will come out on an “as I get to them basis”.

Forgotten Realms: Issue 1 – The Hand of Vaprack (Part 1 of 4)

And they say there is no cheescake for the ladies in comics! The story starts with the paladin Priam Agrivar jumping off a cliff into the ocean. Agrivar had previously appeared in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons comic and I was not a big fan of him there. Thankfully, the comic quickly glosses over his previous appearances with a few lines of text and jumps straight into the plot.

While he is swimming around, Agrivar a ship comes out of nowhere and a mysterious figure tosses a satchel overboard. Agrivar is curious enough about this to retrieve the satchel and is surprised to find it contains an evil looking (and detecting) ogre paw. Deciding he has to do something about this evil artifact, he gets dressed and decides to head for the nearest city.

I prefer my halflings boiled. The scene shifts into the interior of the ship where Captain Dwalimor Omen is attacking halfling crewmember Foxilion Cardluck with a flaming sphere. Omen believes Foxilon is responsible for the theft of the Hand of Vaprak since he is a thief.

The confusion is cleared up when the sentient Iron Golem Minder and Kara Turian swordswoman Ishi Barasume arrive on scene. Minder confesses to the theft, which he committed out of fear that Captain Omen was under the influence of the artifact. Since Captain Omen isn’t normally psychotic enough to attack his crewmates with flaming spheres, he ultimately comes to the realization that he was affected by the artifact. However, he points out that merely chucking it off the side of the boat was probably not the brightest idea either.

Returning to Agrivar, the paladin comes across a band of gnolls who have captured Vartan Hai Sylar, elven cleric of Labelas Enoreth. Agrivar engages the gnolls with the help of a blowgun (no, seriously) and a hastily conjured spiritual hammer from Vartan. Ultimately though, the tide of the battle is turned by the paladin inadvertently using the Hand of Vaprak to blast a hole in the gnoll leader.

Its Hammer Time!

Vartan vows to help Agrivar in his quest since Agrivar saved his life, although Vartan somehow still manages to be haughty about it.

The issues ends with the crew of the Realms Master finding the beach where Agrivar surfaced with the Hand of Vaprak.  Captain Omen fears that whoever has the hand will fall under its influence as he did.

It is then revealed that an Ogre Mage and his doppelganger minion are scrying on the events with great interest.

Dun Dun DUN!!!  Expect more installments to come.


  1. I felt the story did a good job of introducing all of the primary characters while keeping the plot moving.
  2. I really liked the little details that set this comic book in the Forgotten Realms. The biggest of them was having Vartan Hai Sylar actually appear like a Gold Elf as described in the Forgotten Realms handbook. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons comic ostensibly occurs in the Forgotten Realms as well, but the elves there just resembled “generic fantasy elves”.
  3. Speaking of Vartan, I initially disliked him but by the end this series he was my favorite character. I probably ended up playing half-a-dozen sarcastic, haughty elves because of him. Well, him and Legolas.
  4. Rags Morales draws the coolest rendition of a spiritual hammer I have ever seen. I give him extra points for the use of Kirby Dots.  In general, I was impressed by his character design as well.


SoupViking said...

Man this brings back memories. I purchased these when they were released and it quickly became one of my favorites. I'm only remembering what went on as you write about it, but my general feeling for these comics was excitement and fun.

Thanks for the memories... I'll be watching this blog with anticipation.

GeekBob said...

I have all of these as well as my other favorite, the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons comics. I was first introduced to those before this series. Probably why Selune's Smile is one of my favorite in Waterdeep

Daniel M. Perez said...

I LOVE these comics. Jeff Grubb did a great job in crafting these stories, making them accessible yet meaty for those who knew. Priam Agrivar remains, to me, THE example of a three-dimensional non-stereotypical paladin. Now I'll have to dig out the series. Too bad they canceled it.