Thursday, January 31, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 25: Wake of the Realms Master

The Realms’ Master crew is still with the human merchants and Tashira the elf leader when this issue begins.  Tashira is filling the arrogant gold elf role that used to be Vartan’s domain before he found humility.  Meanwhile, the human merchants are helping Captain Omen prepare a “wake” for the Realms’ Master as it is a tradition among their people.  The merchants believe that the passing of a ship should be treated like the passing of a family member.  Captain Omen seems inclined to agree with them.

A fitting tribute

While everyone is distracted by the pretty fireworks, Labelas Enoreth decides to appear to his former priest and attempts to make amends.  Vartan doesn’t take this well.

Maybe not Vartan's smartest move

Labelas takes the punch without complaint and pleads his case to Vartan.  He tells Vartan when he was cast down from the heavens that it was like being blinded, deafened, and crippled all at once.  Labelas says he went mad, and without Vartan’s strength of character to help him through it, things would have been even worse.

Vartan is skeptical and demands to know what Labelas wants.  Labelas insists he is only here to apologize and offer restitution in the form of a godly wish to his favored servant.  Vartan demands that Labelas instead grant his companions their wishes instead, as recompense for the misery he caused them when he possessed Vartan’s body.

Labelas reluctantly agrees and decides to start with Agrivar.  Agrivar finds himself in a brewery, or as Labelas calls it, “a drunkard’s heaven and a former drunk’s hell.”  He then makes Agrivar an offer.

Bringing him to a brewery was a real dick move

Labelas protests that he must grant Agrivar a wish, but Agrivar’s tells only wish is that Labelas leave them alone.

Having failed in his first attempt, Labelas decides to try his luck with Foxilion.  Not surprisingly, Foxilion is much more practical and tries to decide what to do with this once in a lifetime chance.

This is what every player character would be does with a wish

Unnerved by the fact that Agrivar refused his wish, Foxilion decides it is wise to refuse Labelas’ offer as well.  Having failed twice, Vartan suggests that Labelas try his hand with Minder.

Minder is amused that this elven god wants to grant her wish, but she really only has one: that Labelas help Captain Omen.  Omen is somber when Labelas appears before him.  The old wizard has spent years in fear of death, but he knows that even a god like Labelas cannot stave off death forever.  Labelas is also unwilling to speed Omen into death’s arms.  In the end though, he decides there is one thing the god can grant him.

Labelas finally grants a wish

Omen finds himself back in the land of his birth.  When he inquires about Gabrella, Labelas tells him she is waiting for him. The reunion does not initially go as Omen had hoped.

This was never destined to go smoothly

The two wizards engage in a magical battle, using elementals to fight as their proxies.  It is too much strain for Omen, who collapses in a heap.  Seeing Omen in his weakened state breaks Gabrella’s resolve.  She simply can’t stand to lose Omen as well.  As the two make their peace, Grimwald stirs in his bed.  Omen tells Gabrella to go to Grimwald, all the jealousy and hatred having left him.  He then thanks Labelas and asks to be returned to his friends.

The only person left to grant a wish to is Ishi, the friend of Vartan’s that he wronged the worst.

Godly wisdom at last

Despite most of his companions refusing his godly wishes, Vartan is pleased with Labelas’ efforts.  Vartan isn’t quite ready to return to Labelas’ priesthood, but he no longer hates his former deity and the two part on good terms.  Perhaps some day Vartan will even be ready to return to the fold.

The next morning, the Realms’ Master crew awakens.  They only remember the previous evenings events as a dream, but they all feel renewed.  Omen decides to make the trip overland to Halruaa to settle accounts and perhaps even get a new boat.  Everyone in the crew agrees to make the journey with him.

Thoughts

  • Foxilion’s outfit in this issue is simply atrocious.  Seriously Foxy, I thought you had better taste.
  • Considering how little time Jeff Grubb had to tie everything up, this is a very nice ending to the series.
  • I am glad that Labelas got a chance to redeem himself, at least a little bit.
  • I never cease to be amazed at how far Vartan has come from the arrogant elf he was in the first issue.  While all of the Realms’ Master crew changed over the course of the series, he experienced the most genuine growth.
  • Although the series is over, I am not done with my reviews.  For the next installment prepare to go back in time for a look at the Forgotten Realms annual!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 24: Everyone Wants To Run The Realms

This is a very unusual issue of Forgotten Realms.  I think it is best just to let Vartan explain it.

That smoking jacket is awesome

Yep, it is an inventory issue.  You don’t see these much nowadays since comic book companies no longer seem to care whether a comic ships on a regular schedule or not.  Back in the 80’s or 90’s though you would see them from time to time when an artist or writer fell behind.

Of course, this issue isn’t being run because the creative team fell behind.  This time it is because next issue is the last one, so the creative team obviously decided to use this issue while they still could.

This is also going to be a very difficult issue to recap, since it doesn’t have much plot in the conventional sense.  Rather, it is an opportunity for Jeff Grubb to have a little fun showing the “behind the scenes” process and for Rags Morales to draw pretty much every character in DC’s Dungeons & Dragons comic book line at the time.  I mean, look at this page:

Seriously, look at this for a bit!

Vartan’s first stop on his behind the scenes tour is to talk to some of the magical luminaries in the Forgotten Realms.  Specifically, he stops to talk with Captain Omen, Kyriani (Agrivar’s half-sister from the AD&D comic series), and Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun.

Omen is trying so hard to hit that! When Vartan tries to ask how magic works, Khelben and Kyriani quickly remember they have places to be.  Vartan does manage to corner Captain Omen though, who stalls for awhile before admitting that “if you knew how it worked, it wouldn’t be magic now, would it?”

I should note that while they are discussing this, they walk past Elminster discussing “12th century Mulhorandain pottery” with two rather harried looking individuals.

Lets hope Elminster doesn't charge by the hour

The man with the stunned look on his face is Jeff Grubb, who in addition to being the writer of this comic was the Forgotten Realms lead in the games department at the time.  The man changing out the tape recorder is James Lowder, who wrote the portion of the TSR Worlds Annual that contained the Realms’ Master crew and was the Forgotten Realms fiction line editor.

The next stop on tour takes us to a demonstration on swordplay from our two favorite fighters: Priam Agrivar and Ishi Barasume.

Realms' greatest swordsman may be a slight exaggeration

The two have an entertaining battle before Ishi ultimately outsmarts Agrivar and gets the upper hand.  Ishi then takes a moment to give the reader a quick Forgotten Realms geography lesson.

This is actually really helpful

After Vartan gives a brief weapons demonstration using a mace, he cedes the floor to Foxilion.  He speaks briefly about rogues while struggling to set up a slide projector.  Foxilion then gives a hilarious presentation on the races of the Forgotten Realms.

Halflings never get rid of blackmail material

Foxilion points out that “the smaller the race, the more intelligent” before going on to talking about the monsters. He flips through hobgoblins, orcs, gnolls, giants, beholders, dragons, ogre magi, and dopplegangers before getting to one he doesn’t know.  Unfortunately, when they turn on the lights it turns out not to be a slide!

You can't see it in the pic, but it has a rattlesnake tail

The Realms’ Master crew engages in battle with the thing only to find out it has high armor class, is magic resistant, and breaths fire.  Before they can slay the beast, R&D shows up to collect it.  Apparently, the monster is so newly created that the haven’t even established its ecology and family habits!

The concept of worrying about this beast’s family habits sends the Realms’ Master crew into peals of laughter.

Vartan decides to visit R&D next.  Outside of the R&D room he encounters Minder at her wits end.  Apparently, the writers and artists are looking to redesign her again.

Buisness suit Minder is the clear winner

When Vartan enters the room, R&D briefly considers giving Vartan a twin sister, amnesia, a Ring of Contrariness, a Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity, or all of the above.  Minder and Vartan flee, locking the door to R&D behind them.

I should note that when they do show the R&D staff, which obviously consists of people who worked at TSR at the time.  The artist seems to be Rags Morales, but unfortunately I am not sure who the other ones are supposed to be.  If anyone knows, please feel free to leave that information in the comments or to email me.

Any help on identifying these people would be appreciated

Anyway, having fled R&D Vartan and Minder are summoned “back to the set” by Foxilion.  Vartan then takes a few moments to muse on how this story fits, or rather doesn’t fit, into the continuity.  Is it just a just a passing fancy of Vartan’s mind?  Isn’t it all imaginary anyway? Are we sure that we invented the Realms’ Master crew for our amusement or did they invent us for theirs?

Vartan doesn’t give any answers.  He just turns the page, which shows the last panel from the previous issue, and tells us to “enjoy the story already in progress”.

Thoughts

  • This issue is a lot of fun.  It was a great idea for an inventory issue as well, since it is almost completely divorced from the continuity.
  • This is the final issue to feature Rags Morales’ art.  I can’t complain though as he gets to draw dozens of characters from different series and insert a ton of cameos from real life TSR staffers.
  • When Vartan is fleeing being redesigned, one of the TSR staffers makes a joke that no one would be able to tell if they gave Vartan a Ring of Contrariness.  This joke cracks me up.
  • I have to thank James Lowder for identifying Jeff Grubb and himself in the Elminster scene.  He sent me a nice email that talked about it after I put up my recap/review of the TSR Worlds Annual.
  • Speaking of which, the fact that this inventory issue features Minder in her new form shows how quickly the TSR/DC deal soured.  If you want more details about what went down between TSR and DC concerning the D&D comic book line, Jeff Grubb talks about it on his blog here and here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 23: Unreal Estate

We rejoin our heroes as they continue their journey back to civilization.  They have left the desert behind and are now travelling through lush grasslands.  Ishi is worried about her crewmates, especially Agrivar who hasn’t spoken more than a dozen words to her since they left the desert. 

Ishi’s musings are cut short by people crying for help.  Looking over the hill, Ishi and Vartan see a merchant being attacked by robbers.

Note their skin color for a clue as to their identity.

Grateful for the distraction, Ishi and Vartan enthusiastically engage.  Minder and Foxilion follow somewhat more reluctantly.  Omen and Agrivar, neither in good shape, decide to sit this one out.

The battle takes an unexpected turn when the “robbers” unmask and turn out to be elves.  They claim that the humans are invaders who need to be punished.  It doesn’t look like they are willing to listen to reason when they realize who Vartan is and drop to their knees.

The old Vartan would have loved this

Vartan is initially baffled by this reaction, but discovers that word of his time as Labelas’ avatar has spread among the elves.  However, the official story being told by Labelas’ priests is somewhat more flattering than what actually happen.  Vartan is pretty pissed, but before he can set them straight Ishi suggests that they take advantage of his newfound status to figure out what is going on.

The elf leader, Tashira, explains that humans are building farms in the Vale of Lost Voices and Myth Drannor itself.  Myth Drannor is an ancient elven homeland.  Even though it is long abandoned, ancient treaties with the surrounding human kingdoms forbid human settlement.

The merchant claims to have a charter signed by King Azoun IV granting him the right to settle in Myth Drannor.  Foxilion is quickly able to identify it as a forgery though, since the purple ink of the royal seal seems to be made out of mashed boysenberries.

The merchant quickly backpedals and admits he won the charter in a card game with “a little guy” like Foxilion named Sandusk.  This quickly prompts Tashira to insult both humans for their stupidity and halflings as “rat people”.  Still, this is an improvement over attempting to kill them a few minutes ago.

Noticing that Agrivar is already getting into the merchant’s ale, Vartan decides to send Agrivar and Foxilion ahead to find Sandusk.  Ishi is a bit concerned about this, but Vartan figures it is better than letting Agrivar dip into the merchant’s ale supply.  Unfortunately Vartan’s plan backfires when it is revealed that Sandusk is staying at a tavern.

When Agrivar and Foxilion arrive at the tavern, they find Sandusk cleaning out some local farmers. They begin to question him when he asks them if they would like a drink.  Agrivar hesitates, but seeing his reaction Sandusk presents Agrivar with the ultimate temptation for an alcoholic: A Mug of Everfilling Mead.

It says please drink responsibly on the bottom in 4-pt font

Sandusk offers to play him for it and Agrivar quickly agrees.  Foxilion knows something is up, but Agrivar wins so he dismisses the halflings concerns.  Agrivar continues to play and wins the first few hands.  Not surprisingly though, once Sandusk has lured Agrivar in the tide turns and he soon cleans Agrivar out.  Agrivar doesn’t take this well.

This is not very paladin like behavior

Just for the record, I love that Agrivar is still carrying around the meat cleaver he took from the Akri.

Foxilion uses this opportunity to reveal to Agrivar what he figured out long ago; Sandusk is a leprechaun who has been polymorphing the cards all night.  Sandusk is about to leave when Foxilion challenges him to a game.  Since he doesn’t have any money, the stakes are set as 100 gold against a day of Agrivar’s service as a personal bodyguard.  Agrivar is horrified, but Foxilion tells him he has to trust him to get out of this mess.

Since Sandusk is still cheating, he quickly manages to get Agrivar’s services for a year and a day.  Foxilion is not worried though because he wasn’t playing to win, he was playing for time.  Specifically, he was waiting for Minder to show up.

Golem beats leprechaun!

So they play one last hand, and this time the leprechaun can’t cheat because he has an angry golem watching over his shoulder.

When the rest of the Realms’ Master crew arrives Sandusk is long gone.  Foxilion presents the crew with his winnings and lets the elves know that the Sandusk has given up the real estate business for the time being.  Minder is surprised that Foxilion would take such terrible risk by betting everything on one hand.  Foxilion then lets Minder in on his secret.

Never bet against a halfling

Meanwhile, Ishi and Agrivar finally have a heart to heart. Ishi wants to help Agrivar overcome his drinking problem, but knows that his friends can’t help him unless he is ready to help himself.  She bluntly tells him that the crew is moving on, but unless he is ready to accept their help he may as well stay in the town where he can hit rock bottom in relative safety. 

Agrivar thinks long and hard about how far he has fallen.  Finally, he drops the magic mug on the street and follows his friends.

Agrivar finally makes the right choice

Thoughts

  • This is a much better issue than I remember it being.
  • It is interesting that Ishi and Vartan are so close at this point considering that just a few issues ago she was ready to behead him.  It doesn’t seem forced though, considering all they have been through recently.
  • The concept of a leprechaun using his polymorph abilities to cheat at cards was a clever one.
  • I am glad to see Agrivar back on track.  I am also glad he almost had to hit rock bottom first.
  • It was great to see Foxilion get a chance to shine.  He has been out of his depth since the Avatar series began, but this adventure was right in his wheelhouse.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 22: Cat Logic

This issue opens with another dream sequence.  This time it is Minder, who is dreaming about being finally called home to the realm of the dwarven gods. At least she thinks she is, until she finds the gates locked before her.  Minder hears battle-drums in the valley below and realizes it is not yet time for her to rest.

This is some beautiful artwork

This is a nice contrast to Vartan’s dream sequence a couple of issues ago.  Whereas Vartan could have joined his god but couldn’t forgive him, Minder wants nothing more than to join her god but cannot because of her sense of duty.

Meanwhile, back in reality, Los and the Akri are trying to bust down the foundry doors.  Inside the foundry, tempers fray among the Realms’ Master crew.  Omen wants to open the doors and fry the Akri with a Lightning Bolt.  Ishi wants to stay put in the hopes that Agrivar and Foxilion can mount a rescue.  This prompts disbelief from both Vartan and Omen, who believe Agrivar is dead.  Ishi won’t hear it though, as she has faith in her love.

Tempers are running high on the other side of the door as well.  The Forgemaster takes a bit too much pride in the strength of his doors for Los’ taste.  Karse also draws Los’ ire by suggesting they merely starve the Realms’ Master crew out.  Los decides to leave Karse to continue the assault while he takes the Forgemaster and Longerra with him to come up with another plan.  Unseen by all, Foxilion follows behind.

Back in his chambers, Los decides to activate his secret weapon.  The Forgemaster presents him with a wand and explains to him how it works.  Simply press a rune along the base and a beam will activate the nearest statue.  The statue will then seek out the nearest living victim, absorb its life force and take its form.  Los decides to test it on Longerra, to the Forgemaster’d delight.  Unfortunately for the Forgemaster, Los isn’t done playing with his new toy.

Always build a failsafe into your ultimate weapon!

Los decides that he has had enough of the unreliable Akri and that his new statue warriors will prove a more than adequate replacement.  Foxilion has seen enough and slinks off.  About then things go to hell as Karse activates all the statues and they begin absorbing the Akri.

Foxilion is nabbed by Karse, who brings him to Agrivar.  She lied to Los about Agrivar’s death and bound his wounds while he was unconscious.  Agrivar is understandably suspicious of Karse’s motives, but she proposes an alliance.  There conversation is cut short though, when one of the living statues notices them.  This proves to be merely a temporary setback though, as “Agrivar the Barbarian” takes it out.

Honestly, I am impressed he can even stand between the blood loss and the alcohol

At this point the living statues have reached the foundry.  The Realms’ Master crew is doing a decent job fending them off, when suddenly the Minder erupts from one of the statue molds to help out.  Of course, Minder has undergone a few changes.

Well, not entirely anatomically correct...

With Minder back on the team, the other living statues are quickly dispatched.  Los is stunned when the Realms’ Master crew emerges from the foundry victorious.  He is even more surprised when Agrivar shows up alive with a meat cleaver.  Not that Agrivar does anything with it since before anyone can blink Karse tears out Los’ throat.

If only she had done this two issues ago

Karse then tells the Realms’ Master crew to leave immediately or become prey.  Ishi makes a bizarre comment wondering if the crew is any less savage than the Akri before heading out the door.

Thoughts

  • This issue had three pencilers: Linda Spofford, Rags Morales, and Chaz Troug. Dave Simmons inked all three.  Linda and Rags’ art styles blended together rather well, but I felt the shift to Chaz’s style halfway through was obvious and abrupt.
  • I am going to go on the record as saying I am not a fan of Minder’s new Barbie doll look.
  • I wonder if the Realms’ Master crew asked for directions from the Akri on the way out or if they went back to wandering aimlessly in the desert?  I suppose Omen could have teleported them away, but next issue they are shown wandering in grasslands.  I guess Omen’s magic is still unreliable enough that they might not have wanted to risk it.
  • Karse did tell the crew to grab provisions on their way out, but considering that the Akri are cannibals I wonder what type of food they picked up?
  • Ishi’s comments about the Realms’ Master crew being as savage as the Akri struck me as odd considering that the Akri are cannibal cat people.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I discover I have surprisingly strong feelings on griffons versus hippogriffs

The most recent Dragon’s-Eye View from Wizards of the Coast took a look at hippogriffs.  The article focused on how to make hippogriffs visually distinctive from griffons.  It made me think about griffons versus hippogriffs for the first time in a long time.

Being a player from back in the AD&D First Edition days, I tend to think of griffons as cool, but hippogriffs as practical.  Griffons in first edition were both intelligent and deadly.  They could also understand common, which opened up all sorts of coordination between the rider and his mount.  So what was the down side?

Well, griffons eat horses.  They really love to eat horses.  They also love to eat things that sort of look like horses, such as pegasi and hippogriffs. This tended to be a problem unless the entire party was mounted on griffons.  Even then, you had to make sure that your griffon didn’t chow down on the king’s prize stallion when you weren’t paying attention.

Hippogriffs weren’t as cool.  They were the safe choice.  You acquired hippogriffs if you needed a flying mount, but really didn’t want all the hassle that comes with griffon ownership.  Having a hippogriff mount is a bit like owning a nice family sedan instead of a red sports car.

I suppose that is why I always preferred griffons to hippogriffs in D&D.  In real life I would probably buy the family sedan, but my badass adventurer deserves an equally badass mount.

Of course, modern literature has provided us with one badass hippogriff: Buckbeak.

Hand me my ferret, its the one that says bad motherfucker on it.

Buckbeak is a badass because he basically acts like a First Edition D&D griffon.  If you look at Buckbeak funny, he will smack you down.  It doesn’t matter if you are a child or a werewolf, you don’t mess with Buckbeak!  He never eats any horses in the Harry Potter books, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

So does any of this have any bearing on designing hippogriffs in D&D Next?  Probably not.  I can understand why game designers wouldn’t want to make griffons and hippogriffs even more indistinguishable.  There is a place for the family sedan, even in the D&D game world.

You just won’t find my character riding one.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 21: Cannibal Girls (Won’t Yah Come Out Tonight?)

The issue begins with Ishi being crushed by scrap metal.

Just kidding.  Of course Ishi uses her mad acrobatic skills to escape.  She then climbs into some conveniently human sized ventilation shafts  and begins exploring the complex.  When she locates the kitchen, she discovers that Foxilion has been invited to dinner, just not as a guest.

Halfling: The other white meat!

Back in the prison, Agrivar is wallowing in self pity while Vartan futilely attempts to escape.  Vartan calls to the cell next door to enlist Foxilion and Omen’s assistance.  Unfortunately, since Foxilion is not there and Omen is unconscious, things look grim for our heroes.

At least Ishi is still on the loose.  Not surprisingly, she decides to interrupt the dinner preparations.  Ishi quickly dispatches the kitchen staff, but then Los and his entourage show up.

The old slow clap entrance

Ishi then uses Foxilion to beat them down and make good her escape.  Seriously, she just swings him around like a sack of potatoes.

Better than a sack full of bricks

This is really has not been Foxilion’s week, has it?

Back in the convenient ventilation shafts, Ishi manages to wake up Foxilion and explain the situation to him.  The pair spy on Los speaking with the Forgemaster about their current escaped prisoner problem.  The Forgemaster suggests using “the statues” to track them down, but Los seems reluctant.

At this point Ishi decides it would be best to split up.  She asks Foxilion to start a diversion so she can free their crewmates.  Personally, I would send the thief to break into the prison cells, but considering how ineffectual the rest of the Realms’ Master crew has been to this point I suppose I understand why she feels the need to do everything herself at this point.

This proves to be a good decision on her part, since she easily overcomes the guard and picks the lock to Vartan and Agrivar’s cell.  Omen’s cell proves a bit more difficult to open as the lock mechanism is broken.  While they try to figure out what to do, Omen wakes up an decides he has finally read enough of the new Player’s Handbook to try a simple Knock spell.

Knock softer indeed!

Well, I guess you can’t argue with success.  The noise attracts some more guards, but now that Omen is back in action a simple Lightning Bolt takes them out.

The crew’s escape path takes them back through the kitchen, which turns out to be a bad move since Agrivar fortifies himself with a jug of rotgut.  Ishi and Vartan are both concerned, but there really isn’t enough time to deal with it now.

Just as the crew prepares to enter the air vent, Los and his entourage interrupt again!  Agrivar grabs a meat cleaver to hold Los and his cronies off while the crew escapes.  Unfortunately, alcohol is not quite the performance enhancing drug Agrivar believes it to be and Los has no problem fending off his attacks.

Once the crew makes the vent Ishi screams for Agrivar to follow them, but things go from bad to worse.

Cat Scratch Fever!

Los sends his followers into the vent after the crew. This proves to be a mistake as Omen takes them out with another Lightning Bolt spell.  Los then turns his attention to the one crew member still in the room, but Karse informs him the paladin has died from his wounds.  Out of options, Los decides to head to the foundry in hopes of catching the Realms’ Master crew there.

Los’ plan to cut the Realms’ Master crew off works.  The crew barricade themselves in the foundry and Omen muses how it can’t get any worse.  Of course he doesn’t notice that the one of the special statues the Forgemaster was working on seems to be coming to life behind them!

Thoughts

  • I am always glad to see Rags Morales on art.
  • This is the issue where Captain Omen finally gets his mojo back.  Not a moment too soon either, as Ishi was getting pretty tired of doing everything herself.
  • It certainly took the Akri long enough to start searching the air vents.  After all, it is not as if Ishi was very subtle about using them!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 20: Temptations

Like the previous issue, this one begins with a dream sequence.  This time, it is Vartan dreaming about Labelas hosting an eternal party.  The dream soon turns to a nightmare, as all the elves suddenly begin to rot until there is nothing left but their bones.

Its a dead man's party

Seeing his god in pain, Vartan almost enters the hall to comfort him.  Then, remembering that his god is an ass, he turns away and comes back to reality.

Reality is just as bad as he wakes up in a cell next to Agrivar.  Vartan checks Agrivars wounds and sees that his leg is now infected.  Vartan’s agonizes over whether he can just let Agrivar die because of his crisis of faith when he has an epiphany: Agrivar is a healer as well!

Agrivar is still delirious, but Vartan manages to convince him that there was a great battle and that Ishi is wounded.  This motivates Agrivar enough to focus his healing abilities.

When I think about you I touch myself

Unfortunately, once Agrivar is fully conscious, he is less interested in escaping then he is in finding a way to drink himself back into a stupor.

Also known as Betty and VeronicaMeanwhile, Ishi is being lead by bikini clad cat-women down a corridor.  While they walk, she gets them to explain what is going on to her.

The blonde is named Longerra and the brunette is named Karse. Karse is the friendlier of the two, as she seems to think that Ishi is a candidate to join their “sisterhood”.

Karse goes on to explain that they are known as the Akri and they are lead by a man known as Los.  Los rose to power by killing Karse’s mother.  He also gave Karse a scar that goes across her entire face.

Ishi doesn’t quite see why this would gain Karse’s loyalty, but Karse merely states that the Akri are like the great cats they care for: brutal and direct.

Having heard enough, Ishi makes her first escape attempt of the night.  She manages to slip her right hand free of her manacles and makes a break for it.  While she managed to get the upper hand on her two captors, her escape is cut short when reinforcements arrive.  Ultimately Ishi is brought before Los.

So, why is there a dwarf here again?

Before talking with Ishi, Los takes a moment to confer with the “Forgemaster” about the scrap metal they picked up from the wreckage of the Realms’ Master.  The dwarf begs permission to begin the refining process on the “outland metal”.  Los sends him off with Karse to begin the process.

I wonder if this will become an important plot point later on?

Los then turns on the charm and tries to convince Ishi to join his gang of sexy cat-women warriors.  He offers her food and drink while chatting her up.  When Ishi asks about the rest of the crew, Los makes her an offer: If Ishi swears allegiance to him her comrades will be well-tended for the rest of their days.  This prompts Ishi to ask what happens if she refuses.

Soylent Green is people!

Yep. he intends to eat her if she refuses. Not surprisingly, this prompts Ishi’s second escape attempt of the night.  It also prompts Los to turn himself into a lion.

Was anyone surprised by this?

Ishi escapes from Los, who sends his cat-lady friends after her.  Ishi escapes to the rafters, eluding all of her pursuers but Karse.  Somehow Ishi managed to scruff her, and the two make a deal.

I find this hard enough to do with my house cat

So Ishi heads down to the foundry where the dwarf is working.  She attempts to intimidate the dwarf into freeing her friends, but then this happens:

This is not what I meant when I asked to free my friends!

Well, at least Minder is back!

Thoughts

  • I liked Vartan lying to get Agrivar to heal himself.
  • I guess it makes sense that Los would try to recruit Ishi to his group of sexy cat-women since her neckline has dropped to her waist.
  • The dwarf and the foundry seem very tacked on to this storyline.  It is a bit too obvious that they are there only to advance the Minder storyline.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Forgotten Realms Issue 19-Picking Up The Pieces

Well, after a long hiatus I am back.  So I figured I would start back up by continuing my series on the old DC Comics Forgotten Realms comic series.

Last issue ended with the Realms’ Master destroyed the crew stranded in a desert. This issue picks up with “King Agrivar” hosting an elaborate feast with cameos appearances of characters from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Spelljammer comics as well as the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

Rags Morales gets a chance to draw a ton of cameos

This feast is revealed to be in honor of King Agrivar’s new bride, “The Empress of the East”.  The happy festivities come to an abrupt halt when the Empress, who is of course Ishi, reveals her shame at being betrothed to “a drunken ale-swilling barbarian”.

At this point Agrivar briefly comes out of his delirium to a much less pleasant reality.  The Realms’ Master crew is still stranded in the desert and the situation is dire.  Agrivar is suffering both from a severely broken leg and from his forced relapse into alcoholism. He is being tended to by Ishi, but his prospects for survival don’t look good. 

Vartan’s hand is still injured from last issue, and while he is doing better than Agrivar he is getting the cold shoulder from Ishi after the homicidal and rape-loving turn he took while possessed by his god.  Vartan is also suffering from a severe crisis of faith.  He is horrified by what Labelas did while in control of his body, and wants nothing more to do with the deity.

This just adds to the tension between Vartan and Ishi because he could easily heal Agrivar with his clerical powers, but cannot bring himself to call upon powers granted by a being he has come to loathe.  The tension between Ishi and grows as they realize Agrivar is getting worse and may even lose his leg.  Ishi demands Vartan heal Agrivar and she does not react well when he refuses.

After the last few issues, Vartan did have this coming

Meanwhile, Captain Omen is not reacting well to the change to Second Edition AD&D.

When fourth edition hit, Captain Omen hung himself

As night falls, the tension between Ishi and Vartan continue to escalate. It finally gets to the point where Vartan tells Ishi, “You cannot kill Labelas, the best you can do is kill me!”  Ishi decides to take him up on his offer.

The reactions of the crew are priceless

In the end Ishi realizes she can’t kill Vartan for his god’s actions, even though she wants to.  She is shocked when Vartan breaks down in tears.  He wants to die because he doesn’t know how to make amends for his god’s sins. Vartan’s raw emotional outbreak breaks through Ishi’s anger and she has an answer for him.

Beautiful work by Rags Morales in this scene

Just when things are looking up, the crew is attacked by desert leopards.  No really, this is what happens.

Really, a desert leopard?

With only three crewmembers anywhere near fighting condition, things do not go well for them.  Especially when it is revealed that the desert leopards have humanoid allies with poisoned blowguns.  Ishi is the last one standing, so right before she succumbs to the poison she gets to see that they were defeated by leopard skin Conan and Red Sonja.

Equal opportunity cheesecake

Sucks to be them!

Thoughts

  • This is the first issue that Rags Morales did the interior art on since 15.  He has been missed.
  • I have to hand it to Jeff Grubb on how he handled the fall out from the avatar storyline.  I remember that when I first read this issue I was considering dropping the comic, but this issue changed my mind.
  • Captain Omen’s freak out over the relatively minor changes between First Edition and Second Edition seem funny to me in hindsight.  An early causality of the edition wars, I guess.

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