ADVANCE REVIEW! Dragon Age: The Silent Grove #2 will go on sale Wednesday, March 7, 2012. You can buy the series exclusively at the Dark Horse Digital Store.
As if the best selling games weren’t enough, Dragon Age is now back in comic form. Yes, rejoice fellow Dragon Age nerds. Varric the silver tongued dwarf and Isabela the pirate slut captain are back and near to their loveable and wise cracking selves. Alistair’s back too, but he seems to have left his fun, wise ass persona behind in Ferelden, because now he’s all broody and secretive. It seems to be a pretty big secret too — he hasn’t let Varric or Isabela in on it, but it involves the Antivan Crows and a very important figure from Alistair’s past.
Very rarely do I do a combo review of two issues, but since I didn’t get around to the first issue, just reviewing #2 seemed pointless — that, and Issue #1 by itself was sort of blah. It wouldn’t have been fair to give a shitty review to a comic that I have honestly been waiting for and should really like. So now, with the release of the second issue, the story has picked up a little and it warrants a little better grade.
Written by lead writer of the Dragon Age games, David Gaider, in conjunction with Alexander Freed, Dragon Age: The Silent Grove takes place after the events of Dragon Age II, and is presumably a canon story — well, as canon as it can be since it follows the built in BioWare Dragon Age story and so far has made no mention of the hero of Ferelden or Hawke. Starting in the first issue, Alistair arrives in Antiva in search of the mysterious band of murderers, The Crows. In tow he’s got Varric and Isabela, and where those two are trouble is usually found. True to Dragon Age standards, random violence ensues and it’s fun, but lacks substance. And so the story goes for the rest of the first issue, it has fun moments and witty banter, but there’s substance. Actually, that’s about the same for Dragon Age II — without the superb dialogue between characters it wouldn’t have stood up as well as it did.
The second issue picks up the pace with the trio arriving at Velabanchel, the house of graves, the prison built by the Crows, where Alistair has a face off with a Qunari. It delivers better characterization and a good twist at the end, which is damn lucky because if it didn’t it’d be hard to justify reading a third just-okay issue. Obviously the comic is going to be a whole ton different from the video game. Even with David Gaider the lead writer, so many people work on a video game to make it that final draft that we all play and certainly not everyone involved in the plotting process of the game came to the comic, but it could have been a whole fucking lot worse. Not that this was the worst thing I ever read — lord knows I’ve read some real crap — but this just wasn’t as fun as it should have been compared to the amazing games is spun from. Though you can’t write off a comic completely from just two issues, unless it really is serious crap. Dragon Age: The Silent Grove just might have the chops, I can see this turning into something exciting and worthy of a month’s wait.
Yeah — the story is so-so, at least for now. I really do think things are going to pick up with Issue 3. My biggest “problem” with the comic is that it’s digital only. I’m not holding that again the issues, it has nothing to do with my rating, but it would have been nice to get this in the shop at a full 22 pages. The comic as it is is only 14 pages long and that might factor into the shortcomings of the story. It’s hard to tell a grand story in half the pages. If Issues 1 and 2 have be combined then there would be no question that this would have rated higher, but they’re not, so it didn’t. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some love. Anyone who is a fan of the games will probably dig the comic — it’s got Varric and Bianca and Isabela, complete with her boobs. Alistair needs to get his head out of his butt and be fun again, but who’s to say that won’t happen in a few issues?
Karyn Pinter has been writing for Comics Bulletin since 2008. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and was one of those kids who was raised by TV, babysat by the likes of James Bond, Mary Poppins and Darth Vader. In college she spent her days critically analyzing Dorothy’s need to befriend a lion, scarecrow and man of tin and writing papers on how truth, justice and the American way ultimately lead to Superman’s death.
Karyn gladly accepts bribes in the form of carnitas burritos and/or Catwoman paraphernalia.