By d. emerson eddy — Critical Role could be considered a kind of cultural phenomenon in mainstream appeal of Dungeons & Dragons, helping bring interest and entertainment to the game, both to playing and to watching others, all through the adventures of a group of “nerdy-ass voice actors” every Thursday night. Critial Role started small with a stream on Geek & Sundry's Twitch channel and has now ballooned into a multimedia juggernaut, a growing company with numerous productions, its own merchandise, and one of the largest crowdfunding campaigns to finance an animated series (it was originally just a special and then ballooned with donations and stretch goals) based on the characters from its first campaign. Critical Role also had a comic series in 2017 that served as an introduction to the characters and a gathering of the team.
Now it has a second series, one that picks up after the adventuring party has been running a few quests together already, getting more accustomed to one another, and bonding. You don't need to worry about having read the first series or watched any of the original Vox Machina campaign to pick up on this as the writing team of Matthew Mercer (story) and Jody Houser (script) introduce the characters again here well, with Houser supplying strong voices that are reminiscent and consistent with the voice actors' portrayals. This new comic nicely captures the mix of comedy and fantasy that the game is known for, while giving a compelling hook and mystery to Grog's origins.
Artist Olivia Samson returns to provide line art for the series, with beautiful depictions of the characters. Samson has a great sense of action and comedy in her art that works well here bringing this to life. Keyleth getting “slimed” by the opening monster is a wonderful example, using a laugh to bring us in to the rest of the story.
For this series, Samson is joined by Msassyk providing colors. There's a very rich, vibrant palette used for this story, with an emphasis on some blues, greens, and purples that emphasize the fantasy nature, especially in the opening sequence and during Grog's nightmares.
The creative team is rounded out with Ariana Maher doing the lettering. A couple things really stood out as nice touches. The first, in the parchment-like approach to the dialogue boxes for the place names. It gave me the impression of map locations, and a map is practically integral to a fantasy story. The other was a conversation between Keyleth and Tiberius that was just “blah” and a few standout words filling the entire word balloons.
Overall, Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins – Series II #1 is a fun and humorous fantasy adventure from Mercer, Houser, Samson, Msassyk, and Maher even if you're unfamiliar with Critical Role or Dungeons & Dragons. If you are a Critter, though, this is an absolute must.
Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins – Series II #1
Story: Matthew Mercer
Script: Jody Houser
Artist: Olivia Samson
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Publisher: Dark Horse
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d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on Twitter @93418.