I was slightly unenthused by the "Dungeons & Dragons" #0 comic given away as part of Free Comic Book Day this year. Containing two stories (one promoting the upcoming "Dark Sun" mini-series, the other the "Dungeons & Dragons" comic), John Rogers and Andrea Di Vito's story felt rather slight and a little too by-the-numbers, gamers-want-a-narration-of-their-gaming-session level of writing.
Now that Rogers and Di Vito have a full first issue to stretch their creative legs, though? I think the real problem was they needed a little more space to better make a strong first impression. "Dungeons & Dragons" #1 ended up being a lot of good fun, providing both Wayne Reynolds, Tyler Walpole adventure and a splash of comedy to carry the comic towards its conclusion. There are a lot of opportunities for it to run down into a series of cliches, but to Rogers' credit it instead keeps the comic moving quickly and steers away from those points. Instead we've got zombies that aren't quite what they appear to be, magical traps, a general level of distrust among the group, dangerous parents of girlfriends, and of course some killer orphans. Never trust those darn orphans.
The best thing about Rogers' first issue, though, is the characters' voices. The members of the group who have worked together for a while have a good rapport with one another, even as we get inside some of their heads and show that the easy-going look from the outside isn't necessarily what the reality of the situation is. And even better, there's a certain give and take among all five characters so that the conflicts that do exist feel natural; you can see where the sparks are going to fly, and you want to read more about them interacting with one another.
Di Vito's no stranger to fantasy comics, and his art serves "Dungeons & Dragons" #1 well. The characters look heroic but aren't ludicrously so, and while some seems slightly more stereotypical than others (Adric's shoulder length hair and manly stubble makes me think that Peter Jackson and Viggo Mortensen are going to have a lot to answer for with fantasy stories for the next decade or so), I especially liked how he drew Bree and Tisha, both of whom carry their scenes thanks to their facial expressions and general demeanor. Di Vito seems to be having extra fun with Bree, from her look of disgust as she notes that no one will miss orphan zombies, to her determined-despite-evidence-to-the-contrary gaze as she claims that Tisha's "playing a very deep game," her scenes are solid gold artistically.
It's nice to see the first full issue of "Dungeons & Dragons" have so much fun. Rogers and Di Vito are using the basic ideas of the world setting, but branching out on their own from there for an original, entertaining story. Now that they've had a little more room to establish their characters and get things rolling, I'm sold. It's been 15 years since I've played the game, but this "Dungeons & Dragons" is right up my alley.