by Anthony Rosen There’s plenty of potential for problems with a series like Dragon Age: The Silent Grove. Comic book tie-ins often suffer from a dearth of creativity because they usually exist only to skim a few extra bucks off unwary fans glancing at the racks. Furthermore, the first issue in a miniseries like this often either overwhelms readers with too much back-story or underwhelms them with poor pacing. Thankfully, The Silent Grove avoids those pitfalls and emerges a wholly likable experience. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s quite cheap.
With a story by David Gaider and art by Chad Hardin, the book moves with determination and charm at a clipped pace while still finding time to hit some fun character beats. The story opens with some well choreographed action that doubles as character introduction, moves on to some Indiana Jones flavored dungeoneering, and spices the whole thing with hints of what’s to come. The art compliments all this in a way that nicely reflects the style of the Dragon Age Games, succeeding especially well whenever the action ramps up.
The notion that there is a lot mythology and background to the Dragon Age universe may scare some readers off, but the book doesn’t really trouble itself with extensive info dumps or recaps. It would be easy for anybody to jump right in with this first issue and follow along without any previous knowledge of the games. The book wisely avoids wading too deep into the plot of the series, contenting itself to simply hint at what’s coming and entice the reader with mysterious tidbits. The structure of the book succeeds at introducing new fans to the universe while offering old fans the opportunity to learn more about the world of Thedas and its inhabitants.
The environment itself finds a few moments to breathe halfway through the book, during a quick segment where our characters discuss some of the nuances of a dwarven vanity project. It's charming in the way that well-written characters tend to be, and the fact that the main scribe behind the game's narrative developed the story here definitely helps. To be fair, it will be tough for anyone unfamiliar with Dragon Age's elaborate and detailed storyline to read this issue and become instantly enthralled with the series, but that's not a slight against the book at all. The intention of The Secret Grotto is ostensibly to expand the universe of Ferelden and let fans of the series spend some more time with their favorite companions, but it also offers anyone curious a quick, enticing glance into the epic tale.
TL;DR: The issue is a stinger, just 13 pages to get you interested not only in this side story, but in the universe of Dragon Age as well. In both respects the book succeeds, using the natural flow of the story to flesh the world out. It's paced well, and nothing really seems all too confounding about this world you find yourself in.
Dragon Age is written by David Gaider (who also wrote the games) with art by Chad Hardin. It's published by Dark Horse as one of their new digital exclusive titles. You can purchase it through Dark Horse Digital or on your Android or iPhone for 99 cents.
A review PDF of Dragon Age was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.
Anthony Rosen prides himself on two things: his beard and his comic book collection. He once ate a tablespoon of nutmeg on some bad advice from a friend. He hasn’t been the same since.